Welcome to another cup of tea with Ethel Turner. Or to be more precise, today we’re having tea with Ethel’s step-sister, Lucy Turner.
Considering they’re not biological related, it could be rather tempting to gloss over Lucy Turner, and move onto the family’s arrival in Australia. However, as biographical sleuths, we need to keep an open mind, especially before we weave the overall tapestry. There might just be a surprise!
Moreover, knowing more about the extended Turner family can also shed light on Seven Little Australians, which has been said to be based on the Turner household. Older sister, Lillian was four, and Ethel was only two years old when their mother married Henry Turner on the 21st August 1872. Lucy would’ve been around 14. A year later, their half-sister, Jeannie Rose, was born. Henry died in August 1878 and so they lived together as a family for around six years.
Lastly, knowing more about Ethel Turner’s real life gives us a better chance of sifting fact from fiction. Of particular interest, Ethel’s novel: Three Little Maids has been considered a somewhat autobiographical account of her early life. However, it is also fused with fiction, and as a biographical source warrants a more critical assessment. (We will get to that).
Bearing all this in mind, Lucy Turner certainly warrants at the very least an introduction. Moreover, all of this wrangling actually did produce a surprise.
Lucy Turner’s Story
To be perfectly honest, I only came across Lucy Turner when I found her included in the shipping records for the Turner family. On the 20th January, 1880 Sarah Jane Turner and her three daughters: Lillian 12, Ethel 9, Rose 5 and Lucy Turner aged 21 years boarded The Durham in Plymouth as unassisted passengers. They arrived in Sydney three months later on the 23rd March, 1880. Ethel would have celebrated her 10th birthday on board. It has been said that Lucy brought her father’s ornate clock with her on the voyage, which bore the following inscription: “Presented to Henry Turner Jnr as a mark of esteem and respect by the employees of Messrs H. Turner and son, Brunswick Street Mills, Leicester , Dec 24 1869.” 2.
Although I haven’t been able to find a birth record for Lucy Turner yet, she did appear in the 1871 census. She was 13 years old and one of the six Turner children. They were living at St Margaret’s in Leichester East 1. This means she was born around 1858.
After arriving in Sydney, Lucy married Tom A. Board in Canterbury in 1884. He was an accountant and they had three children: Harold (1885), Lucy “Madeleine” (1886) and Gladys (1891). They were living at 36 Gordon-street, Paddington in 1912 when her husband passed away, after being runover by a tram.
It appears Lucy was a musician:
Mrs. Lucy Board, who has recently taken up her residence In Turramurra gave an “At Home” recently. Among the guests were Mrs. J. Dobbie and Mr. Frank Edgar, the well-known composers 3 .
While it’s nice that her step-sister is musical, what is more interesting is that Lucy’s daughter, Madeleine Board, was a published children’s author- also by Ward Locke who had published Seven Little Australians.
Now, for those of you like me who compulsively chase rabbits down their burrow holes, let us continue. After all, when you’re considering the making of Ethel Turner, there’s always the genes versus environment debate. An obvious consideration is also how much influence Ethel’s career and her interest in teaching young people to write had over her step-sister’s daughter. It must also be remembered that Ethel’s younger sister, Rose, was a Turner and Lucy’s half sister as well.
So, now we are left investigating Madeleine before we’ve even touched on Ethel’s older sister, Lillian, and before they’ve even landed in Australia. I am addressing her now because she’s been left out of the Turner author narrative before, and because this side of the family is going to be dropped out of my narrative after this post.
On second thoughts, Madeline warrants a post of her own, and then we’ll move on.
- Family Search 1871 UK Census.
- A.T. Yarwood: From A Chair In The Sun, Ringwood, 1994, p 9.
- Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 – 1930), Tuesday 27 April 1926, p 2