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George and Mary Ah Kin
Not very much is known of George Ah Kin’s early life. The earliest official record we have of his existence is the birth registration of his first daughter, Emma, on 14 January 1865 on the Delegate Diggings. He stated he was 29 at the time. Other evidence, naturalisation and bankruptcy papers) indicates he had arrived from China in the late 1850s.
Mary Higgins was born in Sydney on 23 May 1844, the fourth child of Michael and Ann Higgins. Both Mary’s parents died young, Michael in 1852 and Ann in 1853, leaving four young orphaned girls ages 12 to 4 years. Nothing is known of their lives from 1853 until 1865 when Emma was born and also Mary’s eldest sister, Catherine, married Michael Morony at Araluen. There were many Higgins living in Braidwood during that time who could quite possibly have been relatives.
George and Mary were married on 17 November 1873, the same day George was baptised into the Church of England. They had five more children whilst living on the Delegate Diggings and at Craigie, Margaret in 1867, George in 1868, Thomas in 1870, Agnes Mary in 1871, Samuel in 1873.
About 1874 the Ah Kin family moved to Bombala where George set himself up as a hawker, became naturalised and selected land. Four more sons were born here, James Joseph in 1875, John Patrick in 1877, Alexander in 1878 and Walter in 1880. In 1878 Emma, their eldest child, at the age of 13 years and 9 months, was married in Bombala to John Ab Long, who was 25 years her senior and a storekeeper from Nimmitabel.
In 1881 George and Mary and their nine children moved to Nimmitybelle. Here George set himself up in business as a storekeeper and butcher (but he also had other skills as shown in J.W.Evans’ book Nimitybelle - 70 years of memories: “During the early days of Nimitybelle, a Mr. Ah Kin of Chinese origin had two pairs of dental forceps, one side curved, the other straight, and he did most of the extractions for local folk and occasional travellers. The only alternative was a trip to Cooma where a Mr Wiseman, a Chemist, did extractions, but like Ah Kin no anaesthetic. At Ah Kin's death, his son John got one pair of forceps and John Burke (John Ah Kin’s father-in-law) the other.")
On 16 January 1886, George took out a mortgage from James Charles Martin for the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Pounds. Security for this mortgage was the house built on the land which he had purchased in 1883. This mortgage was later to bring about his bankruptcy. Five more children were born in Nimmitabel, Elizabeth in 1882, Mary in 1883, William Gabriel in 1885, Alice Maud in 1887 and Violet May in 1890.
By 1895 George's business was obviously declining as he stated in his bankruptcy papers in 1897 that "I did not sell my business. It died out 2 years ago". It was probably in 1896 that George decided to go to Sydney to live as he was living at Alexandria in 1897 when the bankruptcy occurred. What happened to George from this time until his death remains a mystery although it is reputed by family stories that, at some stage before 1903, he was living in Goulburn Street, Sydney. George died on 4 May 1905 at the George Street Asylum, Parramatta, and is buried in the old Chinese section of Rookwood Cemetery.
Mary stayed on in Nimmitabel with ten of her children (two boys had died and the three eldest girls had left home). She purchased a house and some land in Nimmitabel in 1897 but later moved to Sydney with her youngest daughter, Violet, and lived in Balmain until her death on 20 August 1910. She is buried in the Old Catholic section of Rookwood Cemetery. In her will she left her house and land in Nimmitabel to her daughter, Elizabeth, who later transferred it to her brother John.
CHILDREN OF GEORGE AND MARY AH KIN
George (junior), Thomas, Samuel, John and Walter all spent many years working in Nimmitabel. Before the advent of the motor car George (jnr), Samuel and Thomas between them had a coach run from Nimmitabel to Bega as quoted in reminences of Thomas’ daughter, Agnes Mary: "My dad had a coach run from Nimmitabel down to the coast. Tom had the contract for it but his brothers used to drive the coaches - he had the contract to the top of Brown Mountain then Sam or one of the other brothers had it from the top of the mountain to Bemboka. George had the contract from Bemboka into Bega - between the three brothers they had the contract - I suppose it would be run by the government - it would be the same coach but they would have to change the horses - they would pick up mail all along the road, but also everyone's bread and groceries and whatever else they wanted."
GEORGE (jnr) continued with the coach run down the Brown Mountain to Bega for many years and was really a pioneer in the district. He eventually settled in Bega. His first marriage to Lilly Duff produced no children. He married Edith Stella Walker in 1913 and they had 11 children, many of whom are living today. George was a good sportsman and interested in racing. This family is the only one that has kept the name of "Ah Kin" although it is spelt Ahkin now. George died in 1940 and is buried in Bega Cemetery.
THOMAS (known as Tom) married Mary Cousemacker in Bega in 1898 and settled in the Merimbula area as a butcher for some years. His four eldest children were born there but he returned to Nimmitabel about 1905 and had a butcher’s shop there for many years before going to Sydney in the 1930s to live in Kogarah. J.W.Evans in his book "Nimitybelle - 70 years of memories" writes about Tom and his butchers shop: This shop was owned and operated by Tom King. The name was originally Ah-Kin. When the family left school he considered the Chinese name might make it difficult for them getting Government jobs, so changed the name by deed-poll. The building between the shop and the Bakehouse was his residence. The shop and the residence were demolished about 1965. King and sons did all their own slaughtering. The slaughter house was on the south side of the Springfield road some five or six hundred yards over the railway line. The butcher boy came around on horseback and took your orders on Friday afternoon. The orders were cut, wrapped, and delivered on Saturday morning. Tom died in 1954 and is buried in Woronora cemetery.
SAMUEL (Sam) continued to drive the coaches up and down Brown Mountain as in 1907 he was uninjured when the coach overturned (mentioned in Perkins Papers). In the Cooma Express 20 Mar 1900 Samuel Ah Kin is mentioned as being in the Bushman's Contingent for South African War but there is no record to say that he ever went to the War. About 1908 Sam went to Sydney to live where he worked for an undertaker. He changed his name to KING; married Esther May White and they had two sons. Sam died in 1961 and is buried in Randwick cemetery.
JOHN PATRICK lived all of his life in Nimmitabel. He married Cecilia Burke in Cathcart and they raised a family of three daughters and some of his descendants still live in Nimmitabel today. John died in 1951 and he and his wife are buried in the Nimmitabel cemetery. In 1900 John is listed as a butcher and also must have been keen on the races as later in 1906 he was Secretary to the Nimmitabel Annual Races (Perkins Papers). He was a sporting man and this can be shown by his football prowess as captain of the 1904 Football Premiers. Several of his brothers were also amongst the players.in that winning team.
WALTER HENRY was another of the brothers who changed their name to King. Walter worked as a butcher in Nimmitabel before going to Sydney where he opened a shop in George Street, Sydney. He later had a butchers shop in Hurstville. Walter had a large family of 11 children but only four of these children have families.
JAMES JOSEPH went to Sydney to live about 1905. He married Elsie Shepherd and they had four daughters. At one time James was also a butcher which seemed to be a family occupation. He also worked for William Carter, the undertaker with his brother, Samuel. James died in Sydney in 1935 and is buried in Randwick Cemetery.
EMMA, George and Mary’s eldest child, was married in 1878 at the age of 13 to John Ab Long, a Chinese, who was 25 years her senior and a storekeeper from Nimmitabel. They went to Sydney to live where they had six children. In 1902 John took Emma and the family to Hong Kong to live. Not long after John deserted the family and Emma was left to bring up the six children in a country which was virtually foreign to her. Emma died before 1915.
Although the Ablong children were born in New South Wales, they and their families had difficulties returning to Australia because of the introduction of the “White Australia Policy”. Louisa Grace, their fourth child, came back to Australia in the early 1950s. She never married and died in Lewisham Hospital about 1978. Their third child, Albert Ernest, was killed in 1941 in Hong Kong during World War II. Many of his eleven children and their families are now living in Australia. The youngest, Beatrice Rose, known as Rose, and her husband, Arthur Kew, were interned by the Japanese during the Second World War in the Stanley Civilian Prison in Hong Kong.
MARGARET left her home in Nimmitabel before 1891 and apparently went to Sydney with her sister, Agnes Mary. Margaret married Henry Wood in Sydney in 1894 and had three children.
AGNES MARY left home when only a teenager and went to Sydney with her sister, Margaret. Agnes married a seaman, William Alexander, in London, England and went with him to live in Aberdeen, Scotland, where their five children were born. They returned about 1915 to live in Adelaide and then in Sydney.
ELIZABETH never married and died in 1934. She is buried in Randwick Cemetery. She had a daughter, Helena Eve Maud, known as Eve, born in 1900 in Nimmitabel when Elizabeth was 19. Eve was a very bright child and after completing school in the country, went to University, then entered the Convent of St. Joseph where she took the name of Sister Marie Therese.
ALICE MAUD married David Mack in Cooma in 1905. David and Alice lived there for many years before moving to Sydney. Alice Maud died in 1949. The Mack brothers had stores in Cooma but also had at one time the General Store in Nimmitabel next to the School of Arts.
VIOLET MAY, known as May, was living in Sydney with her mother at 18 Ann Street Balmain when her mother died there in 1910. She married Gordon Ross but they had no children. May died in 1922 and is buried in Randwick cemetery.
MARY died on 7 January 1906 at the age of 22 from tuberculosis and is buried in an unmarked grave in the old pioneer cemetery at Nimmitabel.
ALEXANDER died in 1887 at the age of 9 and WILLIAM GABRIEL died in 1885 at a few weeks old. Both are buried in the Old Pioneer Cemetery in Nimmitabel as well.
In 1988 a memorial stone was erected in this cemetery with the names of those buried in unmarked graves but the names of Mary, Alexander and William Gabriel do not appear on the plaque.
Submitted by Barbara Moore bmoore-at-netspeed.com.au