|Birth:||c 1845 Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland|
|Death:||7/4/1923 Adelaide, South Australia|
|Marriage:||19.10.1866 Holywood, County Down, Northern Ireland|
Nothing is known of Robert's earlier life or his father James.Little is also known of this family prior to coming to Australia. Why they moved from Ireland to Scotland between 1871 and 1874 is unknown, and then also why they decided to move to Australia. It is likely to have been for work opportunities.
Journey to South AustraliaEdit
In 1877, the family decided to leave Scotland and travel even further, this time to South Australia. The ship they chose to travel on was the SS "British Enterprise". The ship British Enterprise was built at Stockholm in 1876, being a three masted iron barque of 1694 tons with dimensions of 246 feet by 40.1 ft. wide by 23.9 ft. draft. British Enterprise was a very fast ship on the England to Australia run and in the last few years of her service she had the reputation for taking a life on almost every voyage.
The Certificate of Arrival for the British Enterprise gives the date of embarkation of emigrants from Plymouth, England as the 12th January 1877. There were more than 500 immigrants on board and a case of smallpox developed on board shortly after leaving England. The man died; his clothes were burned and the ship fumigated.
The date of arrival at Port Adelaide, South Australia was 4th April 1877, a voyage of 82 days. The ship had been riddled with disease during it's journey, including small-pox, measles, typhus and scarlatina. The assistant health officer, Richard Jagoe, refused to label her a 'clean ship' and placed it in quarantine; this action was confirmed by his superior, Dr Duncan. Yet because a quarantine station had yet to be established in the colony at the time, the health officer had some trouble enforcing the law of infected persons staying on the ship. The passengers, naturally, were much disappointed in being held in this manner in sight of their destination after a long voyage on a crowded ship and showed their displeasure with Mr Jagoe by pelting him with loaves of bread.
This forced the government of the day to charter several small vessels, and the infected passengers were divided up amongst all the boats. The children were transported to the "Fitzjames" accompanied by their mothers and, two months later, passengers began to comment 'strongly and adversely' on the situation. The health officers conversed with Captain Marshall Smith, a marine surveyor, whose ship, the "J.L. Hall", was in the Port River having partly discharged a cargo of coal.
He agreed to clean the vessel and proceed to the anchorage and take the married couples and their children on board. Two barques in port, the "Ashburton" and "Fleur de Maurice", were also chartered; they accommodated the single men and single women, respectively. After the immigrants had remained another month they were allowed to go ashore, that is, six months from the time they left London. This quarantine exercise was an expensive affair and cost about £8,000.
They had, in essence, created the first quarantine station on the fleet of boats. This appeared to have an effect at keeping the diseases off shore, with only a few isolated cases of small-pox in the vicinity of the dock reported. The concern was so great about the potential threat of infection that the incident was even reported in the Hawaiian Gazette newspaper. Whether or not the Copeland family was infected by disease is unknown, but it should be noted that a death record for third daughter Ellen (who died before 1879 when another daughter baring her name was born) has not been located.
Son in troubleEdit
Robert and Elizabeth (known as Eliza) would have two more children in South Australia after the birth of Ellen – two sons named John and James. Son John’s birth was registered but there is no record for James. His birth details have been presumed from his service record.
Son Robert appears to have been a difficult child and on the 28th January 1888 (at age 11) he was admitted to the Magill Industrial School. Remarks on his admission state that he was an ‘uncontrollable boy’ and was sentenced to a term of 12 months. Mother Elizabeth was living at Poole Street, North Adelaide at the time, and his father Robert was in Melbourne. The reason for Robert being in Melbourne is unknown.
Son Robert did not stay at the Industrial School long. By 6th February 1888, the Industrial School committee had placed him with a Sarah Ann Gamlin, a protestant Methodist living at Littlehampton, near Macclesfield. His referree was Thomas Weatherall, Protestant Methodist minister at Mt Barker. Robert was adopted by Sarah Gamlin and she was given a subsidy for taking him in.
It appears Robert lived with Sarah Gamlin for sometime, but by 1891, when he was 16, he was back in Adelaide and appears to have been looking for his family. His ‘uncontrollable’ behaviour appears not to have disappeared. This is determined by an article in the South Australian Police Gazette, June 8th 1891, which states:-
“Robert Copeland, alias Longridge, age about 16 years, medium height and build, very fair complexion and hair, full face, wore grey coat and vest, dirty white moleskin trousers, and white soft felt hat with narrow rim, for assaulting Wah Sing, at Glanville, on the 15th ultimo. Offender’s mother resides at Glanville; he was seen there on the 18th ultimo, and stated his intention of going up the country. He was formerly employed at a farmer’s, Littlehampton.”
Poverty appears to have been an issue for the family and could be the reason why they moved frequently and lived separately. Father Robert was back in Adelaide in December 1898, when a warrant was issued for his arrest. The South Australian Police Gazette describes the incident:-
“Robert Copeland, a plasterer, age 45 years, height 5ft. 7in., dark complexion, dark hair turning grey, dark moustache and believed small sideboards turning grey, wore a grey tweed check suit, a grey or white soft felt hat, and is addicted to drink, for larceny, as a bailee, of a basket of carpenter’s tools, and a swag consisting of a dark-blue rug with red stripes, a white blanket, a blue and white cotton counterpane, a coloured cotton shirt, a flannel under shirt, a light grey tweed sac coat, a dark-blue vest, and a pair of dark-brown tweed trousers, the property of Mathew Thompson, at Adelaide, about the 13th instant. The basket of tools has since been recovered, having been pledged by offender at Goodwin’s pawn office, Freeman-street, Adelaide, on the 13th instant.”
The South Australian Police Gazette of January 17, 1894, reported that the warrant had been withdrawn.
The WWI record of son Robert states on his attestation papers that he served 2 years 9 months with the Colonial forces in Africa, most likely during the Boar War. A search of records in the National Archives and Australian War Memorial has found no evidence of his service at this stage.
According to medical information in James’ service record, in 1903 he suffered a cough and difficulty breathing at night. He was treated for asthma.
World War IEdit
Son James enlisted for WWI on 19/8/1914 at Broadmeadows in Victoria. He gave his birth place as Adelaide, South Australia, and his age as 30 years 8 months (placing his birth in approximately 1883). He gave his trade as labourer and listed his mother as next of kin. He recorded her address at the time as 28 Bendigo Street, North Melbourne, Victoria. He stated that he had spent one month with the school cadets, placed with the 17th Light Horse. At his medical examination, he was found to be 5ft 9inches in height, weight 10 stone, 2 pounds, chest 35/38 inches, with fair complexion, yellowish eyes and brown hair. The yellowish colour of James’ eyes may be indicative of future medical problems he was to face. He was placed with the 4th Light Horse Regiment with the rank of Private.
One week later, Son Robert enlisted for WWI on 27/8/1914 at Morphettville in South Australia. Have gave his birth place as ‘Ballergate’, Glasgow, Scotland, age 36 years, and stated his trade was a butcher, having been apprenticed by a B. Watts for 3 years. He stated he was married, gave his wife’s name as next of kin and said she was living at Kapunda. He did not give any information on his previous criminal history on his attestation form. At his medical examination, he was found to be 5ft 6inches in height, 140 pounds, a 56 inch chest measurement, with dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He was given the rank of Private and placed with ‘B’ Company, 10th Infantry, A.I.F.
The attestation papers of both James and Robert were signed on the same day, 27/8/1914. James embarked on 19/10/1914 from Melbourne on the HMAT Wiltshire, and Robert embarked from Adelaide the day after (20/10/1914) on HMAT Ascanius.
Son John also enlisted in WWI on 30/1/1915 at Keswick, South Australia. He gave his birth place as Bowden, South Australia, age as 28 and his occupation as farmer. He listed his mother as next of kin and gave her address as Brougham Place off Gouger Street in Adelaide. This was later crossed out and changed by the army authorities on several occasions. His medical examination recorded him as 5ft 5 and a half inches in height, weight 144 pounds, chest measurement as 33 and a hlaf to 35 and half inches, with fair complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. It was also reported that he had many moles on his chest. He was given the rank of private and was initially placed with the 27th Battalion AIF. He embarked from Adelaide on the HMAT Geelong on 31/5/1915.
Detail from Son's service recordsEdit
The service records of James, Robert and John are extensive. To cover most of the detail recorded, major incidents of their service will now be recorded in dot-points in date order:-
- 19th - James is admitted to hospital with pain in his limbs and a cough. He begins to feel better on the 24th of the month.
- 2nd – Robert embarked on the ship ‘Ionian’ to join MEF Gallipoli ex Alexandria.
- 16th – John is transferred to the 27th Battalion AIF.
- 4th – Robert is wounded at the Dardenelles and is transferred to Malta.
- 20th – James proceeded to join MEF in Alexandria
- 28th – Mother Eliza is advised that her son Robert is in hospital
- 29th - Robert is transferred to Cottervoro (Convalescent Hospital)
- 31st – John embarks at Adelaide on the ship HMAT Geelong
- 30th - Robert rejoins his unit at Gallipoli
- 7th - James is promoted to the rank of Sergeant Cook.
- 12th – James finishes at Gallipoli and is transferred to regional headquarters.
- 27th – James disembarks ex ship ‘Caledonia’ at Alexandria
- 29th – Robert disembarks ex ship ‘Seang Bee’ at Alexandria
- 5th – Robert is granted leave
- 10th – John disembarks at Audroa, Alexandria.
- 25th – James is admitted to hospital with pneumonia.
- It should be noted that at this date, all three brothers are located in Alexandria. It is likely (but not proven) that the three brothers met up at some point during this month.
- 5th – Robert returns after having overstayed his leave. He forfeits 32 days pay at Tel el Kabir. James is admitted to hospital in Heliopolis with severe pneumonia.
- 12th – Robert rejoins his unit at Habeita after his absence.
- 21st – Mother Eliza advises the army of her change of address from ‘Connenduit Cottages’, 51 Bartels Place, Adelaide, South Australia to No 28 Bendigo Road, North Melbourne, Victoria. The letter is interesting in that all three brothers and their unit details of the time are named and recorded.
- 25th – James is transferred to Helwan in Cairo
- 26th – Robert is recommended for transfer to the 50th Battalion
- 29th – Robert officially joins the 50th Battalion
- 4th – Robert’s information is officially transferred to the 50th Battalion
- 11th - Robert joins the Battalion at Tel el Kabir – he is admitted to hospital
- 15th – John proceeds to join his battalion
- 21st – John disembarks at Marseilles
- 6th – James is taken on strength to D squadron
- 17th – James is admitted to Abbassio hospital
- 31st – a discharge for James is recommended
- 1st - James admitted to hospital with bronchitis
- 11th – Robert admitted to hospital at Tel el Kabir by the 13th Field Ambulance due to gun shot would to shoulder
- 12th – Robert evacuated to hospital for operation on shoulder. Embarked for Australia on the ship “Kanowna” from Suez.
- 3rd – John sick to hospital
- 19th – John writes a statement in hospital about how his accident happened (to prove no fault). He was kicked by a horse while on picket duty, resulting in contusions.
- 20th – John admitted to 25th General Hospital, Dannen Camter
- 24th - John transferred to No 2 CCB
- 27th – John transferred to No 1 Con Depot
- 18th James returned to Australia on the ship “Itonius” with bronchitis
- 4th – John unfit for duty and discharged to Base Depot (Boulogne)
- 16th – James is issued his discharge certificate
- 19th – John admitted to Boulogne
- 23rd – Robert is absent without leave from Mitcham AIF Camp
- 16th – Court martial proceedings are raised against Robert for deserting the army
- 19th – Robert is apprehended on North Terrace
- 28th – John is reported absent without leave from roll call on 23.9.1916. Awarded 7 days CC
- 6th – Robert is found guilty of being absent without leave but not desertion and is awarded 30 days detention
- 21st – Robert embarks at Melbourne aboard the ship “Port Melbourne”
- 22nd – John is transferred from 27th Battalion to 48th Battalion from 2nd Australian District Base Depot, Estaples
- 23rd – John joins his battalion in the field
- 23rd – John is killed in action at Flers, France. He is buried at AIF Burial Ground at Grass Lane W of Guidecourt
- 18th – The cable advising of John’s death is received by his family
- 28th – Robert disembarks at Devenport
- 12th – Mother Eliza asks the army for the pay book and personal effects of John
- 2nd – Robert is absent without leave from 9.50pm until apprehended at Salisbury at 8pm on the 3rd April
- 5th – Robert is given 96 hours detention by Major J Newman. He forfeits 7 days pay.
- 12th – James’ army claim is reduced from 69 shillings to 34 shillings and sixpence
- 19th – Robert proceeds overseas to France from Folkestone
- 4th – Robert joins his Battalion in France
- John’s personal effects are received ex ship “Beltana”
- 19th – Robert admitted to hospital in France
- 24th – Robert admitted to University War Hospital, Southhampton
- 26th – Robert embarked on ship HS “Essequibo” for England – diagnosed with Trench Fever
- 27th – Mother Eliza is advised that Robert is in hospital
- 6th – Robert is returned to Australia for discharge due to Trench Fever, night blindness and a gunshot wound to the left shoulder
- 30th – Robert disembarks from the ship “Borda”
- 30th – Robert disembarks from the ship “Kanowna:
- 26th – Robert arrives back in Australia and is discharged
Witness in Murder TrialEdit
After the war, son Robert moved north in South Australia to work on many of the farm properties. In April 1920, he became a key witness in a murder trial of Alexander Lee, who was accused of poising his wife and children at Rhynie. Mr Lee and Robert had met at a hotel at Burra in March of that year, where Robert was employed by one of the properties to poison dogs. Robert said that Lee posed as a policeman, and requested that Robert provide him with some strychnine so he could poison some dogs. Robert had been drinking at the time that he met Lee, and gave him an ounce of strychnine in a bottle. It is believed that Lee used the strychnine to poison his wife and children. The incident was reported in several newspapers of the time, including the West Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Brisbane Courier, and the Argus.
Son Robert was still working up north of the state in November of that year, when he signed for his 1914/1915 star at Koomaree Station, witnessed by a J. Thompson. Where he was in June of 1921 is unknown, as his sister Elizabeth Underdown (nee Copeland) signed for receipt of his British War Medal.
Mother Eliza received John’s memorial scroll in August of 1921 and a photograph of his grave in September of the same year. A William Copeland signs for Robert’s Victory Medal in Adelaide in April of 1922. Who this William Copeland is and how he is related to the family is unknown at this stage. Eliza received John’s Victory Medal in December 1922.
In February 1923, Eliza signs a form authorizing the officer in charge to collect John’s memorial plaque on her behalf. She signs a form acknowledging receipt of it in March of the same year, with her eldest son Samuel witnessing her signature.
Father Robert died, aged 77 years, on April 7th 1923. He was a resident of the Magill Home at the time of his death, which occurred in the Adelaide Hospital. How long he had been a resident of the Magill Home is currently unknown. He died a result of Senile Gangene, Chronic Bronchitis and Heart Failure.
|Children of Robert & Elizabeth Copeland
Parkside, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia
Port Adelaide, South Australia
|Ellen Elizabeth Ann||22/4/1879|
Adelaide, South Australia
Woodville West, South Australia
Brompton Park, South Australia
Adelaide, South Australia
- Information from Peter Underdown
- Births, deaths and marriage records
- The British Medical Journal, March 15 1884
- Hawaiian Gazette, July 4 1877
- South Australian Police Gazettes, 1891 & 1894
- Records of Magill Industrial School
- Service records of Robert, John and James Copeland, National Archives of Australia
- The West Australian newspaper, 24/4/1920
- The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, 26/4/1920
- The Brisbane Courier newspaper, 12/6/1920
- The Argus newspaper, 12/6/1920