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Prime Minister's grandmother met two dukes

Mon 27th Jul 2020

The shattered headstone of Edwin Cox in Grafton cemetery. Photo: austcemindex
The shattered headstone of Edwin Cox in Grafton cemetery. Photo: austcemindex

At 22 years of age Mary Ainslie arrived in Tasmania with her parents, all the way from Scotland at the beginning of 1853. It was to be the start of a pioneering life that would lead her to become the ancestor to one of Australia's early Prime Ministers.

 

While in Hobart Mary made the acquaintance of Edward Cox, who was employed as a diver within the areas of Storm Bay and Cape Raoul, in an attempt to recover items from vessels that had sunk there.

 

They were married in Hobart in 1856. With a couple of little children in tow, the couple moved to the mainland, settling in Bendigo during the time of the gold rushes. During this time Edwin was employed erecting stampers on the gold fields. These were steam powered machines which crushed up the gold-bearing quartz.

 

By 1885 the family had made their way to Grafton where Mary and Edwin were to remain for the rest of their days. In her obituary in the local paper it was mentioned how Mary would tell the story of how she was employed to repair the tapestries at Hamilton Palace, the residence of the Duke of Hamilton. She told of one incident where she had a conversation with the 'Iron Duke of Wellington', his official name Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

 

The Duke was on a visit to Hamilton Palace to see the Duke of Hamilton's newest purchase, a coffin from Egypt. At the time Mary was working at the palace, they were making preparations for a visit from Queen Victoria herself.

 

When the Coxes first moved to the Clarence they built a house of cedar when Grafton was mainly dense bush with only a few tracks going through it. Mary and Edwin had four sons and three daughters. Their daughter Mary became the mother of the 11th Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page.

 

When Mary died in 1925 Sir Earle held the position as Federal Treasurer. It wouldn't be until 1939 that he would replace Joseph Lyons as Prime Minister for only 19 days, the second shortest term of an Australian Prime Minister. Other positions he held included Leader of the Country Party for 18 years, Minister for Commerce and Minister for Health.  

 

Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, GCMG, CH. Photo: Wikipedia
Sir Earle Christmas Grafton Page, GCMG, CH. Photo: Wikipedia

 

Edwin died in 1894 and was buried in Grafton cemetery. Mary followed him in 1925 and is buried in the same cemetery.

 

Originally published on Tales From The Grave Uncovering family history from down under By Samantha Elley

 

References

  • 'Late Mrs M.S. Cox - Clarence river pioneer', The Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser, Monday 9 February 1925, Page 2  
  • 'Digging up gold - mining equipment from the Australian goldrush', Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, https://collection.maas.museum/set/1786, accessed 22nd December, 2019  
  • 'Mary Ainslie', Tasmania, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1834-1837, 1841-1887, ancestry.com.au, accessed 22nd December, 2019  
  • 'Earle Page', Wikipedia, https://www.wix.com/dashboard/13ef5639-3299-4bb7-ab1a-0c43b6d547f8/blog/5dfc5734cb41560017f034fc/edit, accessed 22nd December, 2019