Friday, February 23, 2024

The Valentine mystery of a 125-year-old love letter

“He writes poetry in beautiful cursive script and includes lots of little illustrations. He often says things like ‘I wonder what you are doing now’. He is constantly thinking about her throughout this quite horrendous voyage.”

Norman writes in one entry: “I wonder how my little sweetheart is getting on at Yarrundi [her home in Waverley]. Do you think I have forgotten you kiddie? You make a great mistake if you do.”

A sketch in the 125 year old love letter believed to depict Norman giving flowers to Catherine at her Waverley home.

A sketch in the 125 year old love letter believed to depict Norman giving flowers to Catherine at her Waverley home.Credit: State Library NSW

On another entry: “So darling look at this letter for what it is, really a token of my undying and never-ending love for a certain little girl in Woolhara.”

And another: “How I wish I could be with you now, however I will retire to my pew and think about you, dream about you, so good night dearest, xxx”

The “journal letter” concludes in March 1899, not long before the Macquarie would reach England.

Tonkinson was able to find through records of births, deaths and marriages that the couple got married in Sydney 10 years later and lived in Ryde and North Sydney.

An extract from the 125-year-old love letter.

An extract from the 125-year-old love letter.Credit: State Library NSW

“We know that they had two daughters, Betty and Mary, and that Catherine died in 1942,” she said. ​“We would love to learn anything that can add to the story. We don’t have anything written by Catherine or any pictures. It is a real mystery about how they met.”

The library is appealing for any surviving family remembers to come forward to help provide more information, and hopefully unearth more letters.

Norman Tayler in a photograph supplied by his great-granddaughter to the Herald.

Norman Tayler in a photograph supplied by his great-granddaughter to the Herald.

The Herald asked Brad Argent, family history expert at the genealogy website ancestry.com if he could discover anything further. He quickly replied with a Facebook link to a woman called Lucy Killick in the US. He said: “This person is likely the great-granddaughter of Norman and Catherine.”

Killick, currently in Spain, responded with a photo of Norman showing the same distinctive square jaw as seen in his illustration in the love letter.

She wrote: “I believe these are my mother’s grandparents. I have attached some photos relevant to Norman, aka ‘Skipper’, including a picture of him as a young sailor, his birth certificate and the birth certificate of my grandmother (Norman’s daughter). My mother has these in her “important family files.”

The one part of the jigsaw still missing is a picture of Catherine. Can you help?

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