From Beeston to Park Avenue and the opportunity for a better life

My Paternal grandparents, Eli and Elizabeth Ann “Lizzie” Wood

Eli, my paternal grandfather, was the 9th of 10 children born to William & Mary (nee Marwood) Wood, born on 1 May 1868.

Eli’s father died on 4 April 1872, when he was not quite 4 years old.  The cause of death, shown on his death certificate is “Phthisis”, a 19th Century term for Tuberculosis.

The 1881 census shows Eli’s occupation, at 13 years old, as a coal miner.  The occupation shown on his marriage certificate is “Driller”.  What a hard life for such a young boy!


Eli & Elizabeth Ann Wood


He married my grandmother, Elizabeth Ann “Lizzie” Holliday, on 12 October 1890, in Beeston, Leeds.  The witnesses on their marriage certificate are John George Holliday and Emma Holliday, grandma’s younger brother and sister.


Elizabeth Ann Wood


Lizzie was the eldest of 9 children born to William & Mary Ann (nee Ward) Holliday, on 21 October 1870.

They had 4 children: Amy born 1 February 1891, May born 24 may 1893, John William “Jack” born 21 January 1896; and my father, George born 4 February 1898.

According to the 1901 England Census, Eli is a cycle fitter, and Lizzie is a weaver.


Amy Shields (nee Wood)


On 15 February 1911, Eli left London on the “SS Rippington Grange” bound for Australia to set up a better life for his family.  He paid full fare, and the shipping record shows his occupation as Cycle maker.  The ship arrived in Brisbane on 13 April 1911, and continued north to Rockhampton, where he disembarked.

Lizzie and the children followed, leaving London in November 1911, on board the :SS Thermistocles”, which arrived in Brisbane on 18 January 1912.  By then Eli had purchased a parcel of land in Park Avenue, North Rockhampton.  They built a house on the land, and called it “Beeston House” to remind them of home.  Eli also opened a cycle repair shop.

Amy and May met two brothers Thomas “Tom” and James “Jim” Shields, sons of Scottish immigrants, John Campbell Shields and Catherine Murray, who had migrated from Scotland in 1889.  They were 2 of 11 children.

Amy married Tom on 1 January 1914, and they had 5 children.   Tom died of Lung Cancer on 8 September 1929, at only 39 years of age.

Wedding Day – Thomas & Amy Shields


May married Jim on 2 August 1917, and they also had 5 children.   May died of Tuberculosis on 1 May 1927, at only 33 years of age.

Wedding Day – James & May Shields


Amy immediately took over the raising of all 10 children.  She married Jim on 20 January 1932.  They had no children to their marriage.  Jim died on 24 May 1965 and Amy died on 4 November 1969.  I remember Aunty Amy and Uncle Jim as very gentle, kind, devout and proper people.

George Wood with Amy & Jim Shields


Grandad Eli died of a heart attack, on 8 October 1920 out at Etna Creek, on a property owned by my father, who was away at the time.  He was only 52 years old.  The informant on his death certificate is Uncle Jack.

John William Wood


John William “Jack” Wood married Permelia Elizabeth “Millie” Hodda on 9 April 1921.

Wedding Day – Jack & Millie Wood


They had 2 children – Beryl Joan Wood, born on 24 November 1921, and Kevin John Wood born on 1 February 1929.  Uncle Jack died on 3 October 1940, at only 44 years old, of a perforated gastric ulcer.  Aunty Millie died on 12 April 1954.


Beryl Joan Wood


Beryl Joan married Nicholas “Nicky” Hebenko in 1940, a man 12 years her senior, and the youngest son of Russian immigrants, Moisey Petroff & Tanya “Fanny” (nee Bonderenko) Hebenko.

Nicky & Beryl Hebenko


I have been unable to find when they migrated, but by 1925 they were on the Australian census, living in Capricornia.  The marriage produced 4 children, Elaine, Peter, Raymond & Michael.  Beryl died in 1972 at the age of 51 years.  Nicky, on the other hand, died in Mary Potter Nursing home here in cairns on 3 March 2002, at the ripe old age of 93 years.

Sometime in the late 1920’s, the family turned their holding into a dairy farm.  This was later subdivided into what is now part of the suburb of Park Avenue, in North Rockhampton.  The family kept the city block bounded by High Street, Thackeray Street, Taylor Street and Face Street, and subdivided it into house blocks.  A block was given to each child and grandchild.  My grandparents’ original house still stands in Thackeray Street, and is still owned and occupied by a member of the family; as are many of the other of the houses in face street, Thackeray street and High street.

Nicky at work on the diary farm


My father, George Wood, married his first wife, Hilda Lewis, on 29 September 1923. Hilda was only 15 years old and dad was 10 years her senior. The marriage produced 4 children; Dorothy May, Amy Elizabeth, George Eli & Daphne Joyce. The only one still living is my half-brother, George, who resides in the Woodward retirement village, here in Cairns. Sadly, the marriage ended in divorce on 24 March 1950, after a lengthy separation.

The Wood Family & Tom Shields


My father married my mother, Dorothy Davies, on 11 November 1950.

Wedding Day – George Wood & Dorothy Davies


Meeting my mother was what finally prompted his petition for divorce.  I was born on 18 January 1952, and am the only child to the union.

My father was always close to his children, and although the girls all married and left Cairns, we visited whenever possible.


Kevin John Wood with his son Franklin


Dad and my half-brother, George, were both passionate about fishing, and spent many weekends together out on the reef with the Cairns Amateur Fisherman’s Association.  I remember, as a boy, going down to Hayles’ Jetty on Sunday afternoon, waiting for the boat to arrive, for the weigh in of the catch.  It was always an exciting time.

George Wood with his sister Amy Shields


My parents moved to Sydney in January 1963, so that I would have easier access to a better education.  Our first address in Sydney, was around the corner from my half-sister, Dorothy and her husband and family.  We, of course, were regular visitors.

Daphne, Dorothy, Amy and George Wood


Dad died on 17 January 1975 of a stroke, just short of his 77th birthday, and the day before my 23rd birthday.  Mum died on 5 August 1995 from complications after bowel surgery.

Amy, Hilda, George & Daphne Wood


How my grandparent’s lives must have changed, from cold Yorkshire to tropical Rockhampton, and what a shock it must have been.  I have visited Beeston several times over the years and know what it is like.  I have been into the family’s parish church, walked the streets, and plodded through the cemeteries in the rain.  I have many cousins still living in the same area that the family lived over 200 years ago.  What a bleak place it would have been at the beginning of the 20th century.

My grandparents could never have imagined what a huge family of descendants they now have, from their such humble beginnings and hard work.  If only they were alive to meet us all.  They really did give their family a better life.


Posted in Genealogy.

One Comment

  1. I have been researching the history of the emigration from the Russian Empire into QLD in the early 1900s. The Hebenko family including Nicky arrived in Brisbane in 1913. Please get in touch if you are interested in further information some of which I obtained from Elaine Hebenko several years ago. I hope to hear from you.

    Khrystyna Misko

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