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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

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Jacobs Family Tree

by Philip Acland Jacobs

Jacobs Family, n.d. Parents: Elias and Henriette: children in order of age, Jane, Sophia, Augusta, Rebecca, Isaac, Lesser and Leah

Jacobs Family, n.d. Parents: Elias and Henriette: children in order of age, Jane, Sophia, Augusta, Rebecca, Isaac, Lesser and Leah

The typescript copy of this document is in Isaac Isaacs papers MS 2755/10/50, box 9 held at the National Library of Australia. It is undated.

At odd times the family have wanted to know something more about their antecedents. Who were their grandparents? What were they like? Where did they come from? When did they come to Australia and why? Were they married before or after they came? And tell us about the aunts and uncles.

Lately Kit has asked me to write some private memoirs, mainly for circulation in the family, and so I must look back and do what I can to answer the call. I may even collect some odd bits from relations and from other sources. Mother's side of the family will perhaps be written up by someone else.

First on the list is the paternal grandfather. I am sorry that I never met him; he did not come to Australia. His astonishing name was Elias Rypinski until, providentially, he substituted Jacobs for Rypinski. He was born, I believe, in Poland and was married in or about 1833. Some time before his marriage he came to Germany where, in the city of Graudenz he engaged in business, specialising in the sale and manufacture of mackintoshes and headwear. It was here that he met his future wife, Yetta Leisersohn. Yetta seems to be the German equivalent of "Henrietta." (Kit was given "Henrietta" as a second name at my father's request).

At this stage romance comes into the story, Yetta's parents objecting to the marriage, perhaps because of her fiance's lack of means. However, love proved too strong, and the couple set sail for England where they were married.

About this time grandfather did a good turn to posterity by changing his name from Rypinski to Jacobs, whether because he thought the latter name more attractive or for some other reason I do not know. I have heard that before finally deciding on "Jacobs" he for a time called himself "Jacobson". Let us at all events be thankful that he rejected "Rypinski".

After the marriage they returned to Germany, living for part of the time in Graudenz. My father was the eldest of the family, and it appears from his marriage certificate that he was born in Sluvezia which is in Prussia. Next to him came Betsy; then Jane, Rebecca and Augusta, all born in Germany, or maybe in Prussia.

It was probably in the 'forties that grandfather came again to England, settling in Manchester where he established his home and carried on his business. Here the two youngest girls, Leah and Sophie and after them their brother Lesser were born. One of the employes in the business was a young man named Simon Levy who in course of time married Aunt Betsy. They emigrated to America where Uncle Simon founded the well-known house of Levy Brothers, hat manufacturers. Father had to leave school at an early age to take a small position (as office-boy, I believe) in the business of Falk and Company, jewellers, etc.

I am sure that grandfather must have been a man of considerable intelligence and good character, and that he was devoted to his wife and children. His available portraits, taken when he was an elderly man, give an impression of dignity, benevolence­ and austerity. He looks as if he had had a pretty hard time, and I have no doubt that he had. I expect that he was a religious man too, as it is clear that his family had a religious upbringing.

He died in Manchester in 1875. Out of respect for his memory, five grandsons, each belonging to a different branch of the family, and each born about the time of his death, were christened "Elias Rypinski". Every one of them, however, in course of time adopted a more melodious name, and "Elias" became respectively Elliott, Alya, Leslie, Allie and Ewald, while "Rypinski" underwent various changes.

At different times, father, grandmother, uncle Lesser and the aunts (except aunt Betsy) found their way to Australia. First to come was father. This was in or about 1852 when, following the gold rush, the tide of immigration to Australia was flowing strongly. Falk and Company sent father out to open a branch of their business in Melbourne; and this he did. Jane and Rebecca were next to come; then Augusta, travelling by herself, and later Leah, Sophie and Lesser. When grandfather died, Lesser went back to England to bring grandmother out to Australia. She could not speak English, so he slept close to her cabin door. These voyages were made in sailing ships, the journey lasting about three months. I understand that the passage money was paid by father.

When he arrived in Australia, he was eighteen years of age. As manager for Falk and Company, he was paid a good salary.

Having consolidated his position, he married in the year 1860. He was then 26 years old. The ceremony took place at St. Kilda in the house where my mother was living with her father Aaron Woolf. My father, I believe, had been boarding at this house. Some time before the marriage he had been ill and during the illness was nursed by my mother.

I know very little about mother's early life. She was born at Brighton and I think must have left England for South Africa when a child. I know that she lived for a long time in Cape Town before coming to Australia. Probably she arrived here in the early 'fifties with the rest of her folks.

And unfortunately I am without much information about mother's parents. In her marriage certificate her father is described as "Aaron Woolf, gentleman", residing at St. Kilda, and as having consented to the marriage which was celebrated at his house "According to the rites and ceremonies of the Jewish Faith." It must be remembered that a century ago parents stood apart from their children more than they do to-day, and this may account for my knowing so little about the subject. But I cannot help thinking that there must have been some sort of coolness between my mother and her father, because when I sometimes asked her about him she avoided the subject. To the best of my belief, none of my brothers or sisters ever met him.

But I did know my maternal grandmother, though I never saw her after I was about eight years old. She was a real old Mother Machree, very nice-looking too, and always wearing a granny's cap. She invariably had a cheerful smile, ready to break into a laugh. Very old, of course, when I knew her. And the only actual event that I can remember happening with regard to her is that she sometimes gave me lumps of sugar for a treat. Loaf sugar was plentiful in those days,

One other detail is supplied by the marriage certificate which shows that grandmother's maiden name was Julia Phillips. She was the aunt of the late Mr. P. D. Phillips (Mr. M. M. Phillips' father) and of the late Mrs. Louis Ellis.

I have a much clearer recollection of my father's mother who survived grandmother Woolf. I think she used to stay from time to time either with us or with one or other of her married children. She too was a dear old lady, and though her activities were very limited her life was entirely taken up with her children and grandchildren. She spoke with a foreign accent which I suppose was German or Polish. Two words I particularly remember – "mein" (for "my") and "moat" (for "mouth"). As a small boy, I would correct her mis-pronunciation.

Say 'mouth', grandma, not 'moat '.

Then she would laugh heartily and try again and again, but never with any success. You could not talk to her for long. She would just say a few words and then beam at you. What she said was usually in praise of one of the grandsons.

Mein –, dear! A good business man, dear!"

This she would say with an expression of great pride. She was never without a prayer-book which she would read aloud off and on during the day in her husky voice. I think it was written in Yiddish. I could not understand a word of it.

If I were to venture upon a detailed account of father's sisters and brother and their descendants, I should very soon be out of my depth. Their name is legion, the offspring having multiplied exceedingly on the face of the earth. The task would be a delicate one too as I should have to choose my remarks with great care. Just a few words, however, about each of them.

Aunt Betsy, it will be remembered, married Mr. Simon Levy. Of their family in the United States I have met only two; Laura, who married Rabbi Cohen of New York, and Gussie Hartman, whom with her charming daughter Ruth Daniel I met in Chicago. They were all very kind and hospitable. Kit knows other members of the family and is better informed than I am.

I knew Aunt Jane very well – but not her husband (Isidore Gross whom she married in Germany) who died before her. Of their family (Adeline, Alfred, Evelyn, Blanche, Ewald, Florence and Nettie), Adeline, Florence and Nettie are the sole survivors. Florence married my old Friend Leslie Harris who died recently. I was best man at their wedding. Their children live in London.

Aunt Rebecca married a Mr. Herman and lived for a long time in California where my brother Dick often met them.

Aunt Augusta lived at St. Kilda for most of her married life so that we often saw her and her family with whom we were very friendly. She married Mr. Hyman Levinson. Before settling in St. Kilda, their home was in Ballarat where uncle Hyman had a furniture business in partnership with Mr. Steinfeld. Mr Steinfeld was for many years a member of the Legislative Council and he and uncle Hyman were a pair of wise old men and very highly respected. Aunt Augusta, who outlived them and my father, had enlargements of the photographs of all three displayed on the wall of her sitting-room, and more than once she drew my attention to them, tearfully remarking that they were "three noble heads, my dear!"

There were twelve children in this family, six boys and six girls. Fanny, Leopold, Lily, Bertram, Ernest and Tressy now remain.

The longest lived of grandfather's children was Aunt Leah who died a few years ago in London when more than ninety years of age, and who survived her sisters and brothers. Her husband, Mr. Moss Davis, was a brewer in a large way of business in New Zealand. For a long time uncle Moss and aunt Leah lived in Auckland with their five daughters and three sons, To-day, the family consists of Zeenie, Blanche, Muriel, Ruby, Ernest, Allie and Boydie.

Aunt Sophie's husband, Mr. Solomon de Beer, was better known among his relations as "Tom". To-day the family, which once included three sons, Leslie, Carl and Ernest, is represented by Dora and Amy, and incidentally I am indebted to Dora for some of the information contained in this brief narrative.

Finally, there was uncle Lesser, of whom, and of aunt Belle and their children I will write at somewhat greater length.

My first memory of him takes me back to my very early childhood, when I was about six or seven years old. He was sitting on the verandah outside our house in Dalgety Street, St. Kilda, holding me on his knee. He had not been long married, and I surprised him by asking him quite suddenly why he had married aunt Belle. He thought for a moment, and then said in a very solemn voice it was because he loved her, which I thought was a very good reason.

He was tall and thin and had a distinguished appearance. Like my father he wore a beard. To see him walking along the street, well dressed, as he always was, and swinging an umbrella, you might have taken him for an ambassador or a Polish prince. Aunt Belle was a very pretty woman too, and the family have inherited their parents' good looks.

When I was fourteen or fifteen years old, and the rest of us except Louis were in Australia. I was a frequent visitor at Uncle Lesser's house in Clanricarde Gardens, Bayswater, At that time – for about fifteen months – I was boarding at Mr. Pendlebury' s house in West Kensington. (He was the senior mathematical master at St. Paul's School). And it was a regular thing for me to have the midday Sunday meal at Clanricarde Gardens.

Uncle Lesser had a very dignified manner. He was a stickler for propriety and a strict disciplinarian in the upbringing of his family. In his presence they always had to mind their p's and q's, and so did I. When I sat with the others at the table, no breach of decorum was allowed. The children – Ernest, Constance, Rita, Clarence and Dorothy – held their father in awe. I shall never forget one little performance at the end of the Sunday dinner. Each child said grace after meals in German, the first to speak being Ernest, the eldest, and the last Dorothy, the youngest. To this day I remember the words: "Gute Gott, ich danke dir das du mir mit speise und drinck gesatigt hast. Amen." The very instant that "Amen" was pronounced by Ernest, Constance shot ahead with "Gute Gott," etc. and so on with the others. It was a great display of religious discipline.

While my folks were away at this period, I was to some extent looked after by uncle and aunt in the summer holidays which were spent at Llandudno in North Wales. They stayed at a house in Gloddaeth Terrace and I had bed and breakfast elsewhere. That was a very pleasant holiday. I used to enjoy the concerts given on the sea front. But my great delight was to walk to the Little Orme's Head and listen to the Nigger Minstrels performing in the Happy Valley, their voices rising to the place where, far above on the hillside, I would sit.

Now to resume the story of my father's career. I do not know how long he stayed with P. Falk and Co. I fancy it was for several years. It was here by the way, that he learned something about watches; he often claimed that he was an authority on the subject. And this is where I cannot help mentioning the old gold watch that is so well known in the family, the one father left me in his will and which I treasure greatly.

Inscribed on this watch are the words "A souvenir from I. Feldheim to I. Jacobs Esq." And this leads me to refer to father's connection with the tobacco business in which he was associated with Mr. Feldheim. For many years they carried on in partnership as wholesale tobacco and cigar merchants, the firm name being "Feldheim Jacobs and Co." The business premises were at 72 Queen Street, and I can speak of this with certainty because, as a small boy, father sometimes took me with him into the city, and, if I behaved well, I was given something from the warehouse – a clay pipe for blowing bubbles, a whangee cane, or a box of cachous.

Mr. Feldheim and father must have been good friends. I think Mr. Feldheim died in the early 'eighties.

Father then joined Mr. Alfred D. Hart in a partnership which lasted a very long time. Mr. Hart had previously carried on a wholesale tobacco business and had been very successful. At some stage my brother Louis also became a partner.

I need not go further into the history of father's connection with the tobacco industry. He finally retired from it, and for some years before he died occupied himself with the liquidation of the Country Estates Company.

At one time – in the late 'eighties and early 'nineties – he was a wealthy man because of the inflated values of land in which he had invested in a large way. When the land boom burst, he was of course heavily hit and had great difficulty in keeping some of his creditors at bay. Financial troubles worried him greatly.

On the whole his life was a hard one. From his very early days until a few years before he died he was battling to make ends meet so as to provide for those who depended on him. He had a great sense of responsibility, never shrinking from his duty to feed, clothe and educate his family. In fact, he would go out of his way to befriend many who had little or no claim on him. No wonder that his brow was wrinkled and that he often grew irritable.

He was a public-spirited man, always ready to support any movement that he considered a worthy one. Often he regretted that he had not stood for Parliament. If he had not been so busy with his own affairs, he probably would have done so. He was very proud of his standing in the city, which certainly was good, as evidenced by the fact that he became Chairman of the Chamber of Manufacturers. He held this position for one year in 1888 and 1889.

Some of Melbourne's leading citizens were idealised by him, especially if they were charitably disposed. Among those whom he was never tired of praising were Chief Justice Higinbotham, James Service, Robert Murray Smith (champion of free trade of which father approved, although it conflicted with his business interests), and Francis Ormond (founder of Ormond College and the Working Men's College). On the other hand he was just as emphatic in his dislike of those whose political or social opinions clashed with his own. In particular, he utterly despised any well-to-do person who did not contribute freely to the charities, "A mean hound," or "a niggardly, low-life creature" he would call him in a voice full of emotion.

He had few hobbies or recreations, but he enjoyed a good show at the theatre, and now and then, at mother's suggestion, he sat down to a game of solo whist. Almost invariably, in the evening, he would start reading the newspaper (or have it read aloud to him) and quickly fall asleep. Sometimes (and this was a rare treat) he would go to a political meeting, and invariably, when there, he would be itching to stand up and express his views with great vigour.

Two remarks made by Louis from time to time about father have impressed themselves upon my memory. One was that his natural capacity for falling off to sleep almost at any time was a providential gift without which his health would have suffered considerably. The other was that the wisest thing father ever did was choosing mother for a wife. This was praise indeed, but well deserved, and what Louis was particularly stressing was that mother had a calm disposition to counter father's irritability, while in his illnesses she was a most devoted nurse.

Some light is thrown on father's religious activities by a passage in Cooper's History of St. Kilda. From this it appears that on a Sunday morning in September 1871, 20 Jewish residents of St. Kilda, of whom father was one, met for the purpose of considering the best means of obtaining "a permanent place of worship". This meeting led to the formation of the St. Kilda Hebrew Congregation. Mr. Moritz Michaelis was elected President and father was one of the Committee. Two years later, the Reverend Elias Blaubaum, of Cassel, Germany, was appointed first minister of the congregation. He arrived by the steamship "Great Britain". Father and others went on board the ship to welcome him, and after cordial greetings he was taken to our residence in Acland Street.

I am afraid that I cannot write with any enthusiasm about the sequel to these events. It was with the best of intentions, no doubt, that father tried to bring us up on orthodox religious lines. This involved our regular attendance at the Synagogue on Saturdays and other holy days, to say nothing of the awful task of learning Hebrew. To sit in the Synagogue for about two long hours every week and listen to a service conducted in Hebrew (except for the sermon) was an experience we all dreaded. It was a waste of time and a humiliation. How we all longed for the time when the congregation rose to sing the "Adom olom ashar moloch." which ended the service. Most of the Hebrew was unintelligible to us – for all we knew, the minister might have been telling us how to fry fish – and what we did understand made little or no impression.

Some of the family, especially Dick, Arthur and Leslie, gave vent to their feelings by playing pranks during the progress of the service.

Another thorn in the flesh was the Hebrew School that we had to attend on Sundays so that we could be taught Hebrew by Mr. Blaubaum. I expect we had some religious instruction too. (As clearly as if it had happened yesterday, I can visualise Lucy Michaelis and Alice Hallenstein sitting together in the class-room – how many years ago!) While on this subject, I should mention that father worked hard to bring about some reform in the service by the substitution of English for Hebrew, and in this he was partially successful.

Now for some memories of my mother.

I may be mistaken in this, but I think I can recall some­thing that happened when I was just five years old. I think I can remember mother lying down in her bedroom at "Glenhope", Dalgety Street, very soon after Manny was born. There was another woman in the room too, who may have been a nurse or one of the grandmothers. Also a child about one or two years old who was probably brother Montague who died in infancy. That is all I can call to mind of the scene. I expect I had been called in to see the new baby.

I have other memories of mother in the "Glenhope" days. I can see her sitting at the piano playing "The Angel's Prayer". She had a good ear for music and a nice light touch, though she was not an accomplished musician and never attempted anything at all difficult. In particular she loved the old Italian operas, airs from which she was always singing or humming as she moved about the house. Those of us who have been musically inclined must certainly have taken our cue from her. Incidentally, I am deeply grateful to her or father – whichever it was – for urging me as a small boy to practise my scales and Czerny's Exercises for half-an-hour before breakfast. But for that early training, I might have been deprived of the pleasure I have always had from playing the piano.

How pleased she was with a blue velvet dress that she wore at Evelyn Bloomington's wedding! I can see her looking at herself admiringly in the mirror. She wore a bustle too. And the dress, we were told, cost twenty pounds. Evelyn was the daughter of mother's old friend Mrs. Bloomington, and the bridegroom was Alfred Beaver.

Mrs. Bloomington was one of a coterie of ladies who, together with mother, greatly enjoyed a game of cards, mostly solo whist; at a later date it was bridge. There were Mrs. Benjamin, Mrs. Brash, Mrs. Falk ("Debby"), Mrs. Michaelis, Mrs. Hallenstein, Mrs. Samuels, Mrs. "Ballarat" Cohen, Mrs. Charles Jacobs, Mrs. Salenger, Aunt Augusta, and probably others whom I have forgotten. These games were mother's principal form of recreation, and her excitement when she made a misère or an abundance in trumps was intense. The "post mortems" were terrific. I can hear the chorus now of "I had the ace, queen, knave, ten" etc. I can see Mrs. Falk's face changing from red to crimson, while Aunt Augusta sighs over her eternal bad luck. "I never get a decent hand," she declares. "I never hold any cards".

I had a grievance arising out of these card games when they were held away from home. While still a schoolboy, I was often made to call for mother in a cab (no taxis in those days) and wait till close on midnight to bring her home. Late hours never agreed with me, and I disliked the job.

Mother was very domesticated. Her tastes were simple. She knew a lot about housework and cooking and never neglected the wants of the inner man. There was plenty of work for her seeing that the family was a large one, even though domestic servants were there to help. In the old St. Kilda days we generally had a cook, a housemaid, a nurse, and a man for outdoor work. Sometimes a gardener, too.

In matters of religion, mother followed in father's foot­steps. She went with the family to the Synagogue, took part in the Passover Service, and so on. She often said a prayer when alone. What is quite certain is that she not only preached but practised honesty and straightforwardness. Today she would perhaps be considered amusingly old-fashioned. Her favorite way of praising anyone was to describe him or her as "sensible" or "respectable". A good test of her character was supplied by the regard in which she was held by the servants some of whom stayed with the family for many years.

Father and mother had a soft spot in their hearts for their daughters who were brought up with great care, while at the same time they were liberally treated in the matter of dresses, going to parties etc.

A slight episode that takes one back to the year 1880 throws some light on the pride the old folks felt in their family. A new brand of cigarettes produced in the business was called "Our Girls", and a picture (taken from a photograph) of sisters Daisy and Tibby, aged about nine or ten and looking very nice, appeared on each packet. There was another brand too which was called "Our Boys", the picture this time being of Elliott, Manny and myself in sailor costume.

The next generation consists of my brothers and sisters. For those who do not know it already, the family originally numbered twelve. Blanche, the eldest, died when she was about six or seven years old. An oil painting of her, which has disappeared long ago, shows that she looked very much like Elliott. Then came Louis, Dick, Arthur, Leslie and Julian (who died when he was about nine years old). And lastly Daisy, Tib, myself, Elliot, Montague (who died when a baby) and Manny.

In some ways the family may be divided, like ancient Gaul, into three parts: part one, the four eldest brothers; part two, the two girls; part three, the three youngest boys. Quite frankly, I do not consider that we were a model family. Our behaviour and our manners were nothing to boast about. There was far too much quarrelling among the four elders, and the example they showed to the younger ones was not at all good. Father and mother tried their best to regulate and control their unruly sons, but, whatever the reason may have been, their efforts failed. Father was out of touch with his sons. He was a very serious minded man, preoccupied with his business and with making ends meet, as he had been in his own youthful days, and, coming from abroad to a country like this, he was quite out of his element and could not keep pace with his rebellious undisciplined family.

Louis was the only one who worked hard at school. He went first of all to St. Kilda Scotch College, and then to Hawthorn Grammar School where, under the influence of Professor Irving, whom he respected greatly, he acquitted himself well and passed the matriculation examination at the age of sixteen, I think he was at Wesley College too for a while, and it was here that the other three boys were educated. But they took very little interest in their school work. Louis would, I am sure, have succeeded if he had concentrated on law or literature instead of on commerce. He sometimes told me that he wished he had been called to the bar. Of course, as the eldest of the family, he naturally stepped into father's business which at the time was flourishing. I may say, however, that he took a keen interest in the business at all times.

It is difficult to say what Dick was intended by nature to be. Possibly a tiller of the soil, because he was as strong as a horse. Or possibly a musician of some sort, because he had an ear for music, was very fond of it, and in his youth made some progress as a performer on the flute and the piano. This he often declared was where he would have liked to specialise. But he too was pitch­ forked into the tobacco trade, becoming at one time country traveller and at others running a branch establishment for the firm on his own account. Finally he drifted to San Francisco where, I am afraid, he led a hand-to-mouth existence. I should mention that once, when he was still in his teens, an effort was made to settle him on the land. But life on a sheep-run near Glenrowan, a lonely village in the bush, did not appeal to him and he was soon back in the city.

Dick, though backward, headstrong and hot-tempered, was quite a character. He was a good gymnast, a formidable pugilist, and a great humorist. In the home circle, he often had us in fits of laughter. Leslie too was a good entertainer and a notable raconteur.

Many a time, when we were all seated at the dining-table, and father or mother was "hitting the roof", these boys would start their playful fooling and we would one and all be splitting our sides.

I should mention that Arthur, though no scholar, was good at figures. The others would sometimes ask him to give them a hand when confronted with a mathematical problem. Leslie had plenty of brains, but I am afraid he was lazy. If he had been properly influenced, he could have done much better than he did. He was well spoken, wrote an excellent letter, and had an engaging manner as well as a good appearance. Unfortunately, he did not turn his good qualities to the greatest advantage. He was conscious of them too, and vanity may have been partly responsible for setbacks he had in his later years.

Sport occupied a large space in the life of the family in the 'eighties and the 'nineties, and in this department the honours go to Arthur and Leslie, and, in the younger section, to Elliott. Cricket and football, especially cricket, were the games mostly favored. Golf was unheard of in Australia in those days. Tennis was not very popular until a later period. Arthur and Leslie were good cricketers in their schooldays, Arthur afterwards played for St Kilda. And when Leslie finished his schooling at the University College School, in Gower Street, London, he was one of the best batsmen in the first school eleven. I often watched him play. Elliot too has more than held his own in the realm of sport, especially cricket; but he has also done well at lacrosse and in the gentle art of self-defence.

I have written elsewhere about Manny's gifts as an impersonator, and I should add here that round about 1890 to 1900 he figured well in private theatrical performances as juvenile lead.

From what I have written of the family history, it would seem that in the choice of careers there were some square pegs in round holes. Why should all my brothers have been committed to a business career? And why all in the same business? Vocational guidance must have been lacking or else have gone astray.

I was lucky to have been allowed to follow a different path. From the first, I was perhaps more closely associated than the others with my sisters.

When I was a small boy, it was quite an ordinary thing for youngsters to be taught by governesses until they were say twelve or thirteen years old. In fact, the only kind of tuition that my sisters received was private tuition of this kind. They never went to school. For myself, I learned from the same teachers as they until I was eleven years of age. To this day I remember the books from which we three children learned as far back as the year 1881: they were "The Child's Guide to Knowledge" (a stumpy little red book) and "Magnall's Questions". When we migrated to London, a very capable lady, Miss Marian Davis, took us in hand in the mornings. At the age of eleven, I was transferred to a small school with the high-sounding name, "St. John's College for Boys" in Moscow Road, Bayswater, close to where we lived. The Head Master, the Reverend Charles Baker, was a nice old gentleman, and there were twenty scholars. A boy named Taplin and I who were competitors for the position of head of the class, were nicknamed respectively "Salisbury" and "Gladstone"; these were the leading statesmen of the day.

Daisy and Tib stayed on with Miss Davis, and afterwards, I think, studied under Fraulein Esshaver, a learned German lady from the Fatherland. She was tall and scraggy and had a dreadful voice, loud and rasping. She was very emotional and entirely devoid of humour. She was terribly afraid of brother Dick who made a butt of her. Tib studied music under her and Herr Eisoldt and, at a much later date, Madame Charbonnet-Kellermann. She was a good pianist with an excellent musical memory. It was a great pity that as she grew older, she lost her enthusiasm for playing. Finally, she gave it up altogether.

Father and mother were anxious that we younger ones should learn to speak French, and when we settled in London (in 1882) they wisely engaged a French nurse (an elderly woman named Adèle Amblet) who could not speak a word of English. From her and others who succeeded her we learned to speak pretty fluently. When the girls were taken abroad for a holiday, they astonished their parents by their ability to cope with the mysteries of foreign talk.

While we were in London, by the way, I was not allowed to drop the study of Hebrew and the Bible, and on Sundays an ancient Rabbi, the Reverend Mr. Phillips (I shall never forget his bad breath) came to our house in Queensborough Terrace and harassed me for an hour once a week. Incidentally, the family – or some of them – attended the Synagogue in St. Peterborough Place, where the chanting was done by the Reverend Mr. Haines and the preaching by the Reverend Mr. Singer, whose sermons were really worthwhile.

For a few months before the family (except Louis and myself) returned from England to Australia in 1886, Elliott and Manny were at St. Paul's Preparatory School, all three of us boarding at Mr. Pendlebury's house. In Melbourne they were at various schools; first I think, at the St. Kilda State school, and then at Wesley College and Melbourne Grammar. For a short time Manny was with me at Scotch College, and for some reason Elliott was transferred from a Melbourne school to one in Geelong. Here he soon became nostalgic, and he and I conspired to bring about his speedy return to Melbourne.

At this stage it seems fitting to end the story. What have written is mainly for the benefit of the present generation, and there is no need to tell the people of to-day what they already know.

Still, for the sake of completeness – and in case this short resume should meet the eye of some unborn Jacobean in or about the year 2050 – I may add that Daisy was married to Mr. Isaacs who in course of time as Sir Isaac Isaacs, became Governor General of Australia; Tib, to Mr. Harry Levy of Sydney, a partner in the well-known firm of Elliott Brothers; Arthur to Miss Dora Lorie of Johannesberg; and Louis, Elliot, Manny and I to Elizabeth, Lydia, Dorothea and Agnes, the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Jacobs of Adelaide. And, to atone for the tardy reference that I have made to my wife, I dedicate "The Family Tree" to her.

Citation details

Philip Acland Jacobs, 'Jacobs Family Tree', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, originally published 12 August 2015, accessed 18 April 2024.

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