Married at sixteen

In November 1875 the second Skinner daughter was married at St John the Baptist Church in Hobart. Frances (Fanny), born 5 Feb. 1859 and sixteen when she married Ah-Sin Yung (also known as Thomas Young). Yung was a tall northern Chinaman said to belong to the mandarin class. Yung was the same age as Fanny’s father and one of three Chinese that fished for abalone on Maria Island. Thomas Dunbabin took over a 23,800 acre grazing lease on Maria Island in 1868. He acquired a whaleboat to transport supplies and his sheep to the Island and lived on the eastern side of the island at least some of the Skinner family joined them as farm workers. Around 1870 ‘Sing, Young and Chow’ arrived and began to collect and dry abalone and exported them to the Victorian goldfields. Dunbabin’s account does not say when they arrived but many Chinese arrived in the 1870s to mine for tin. Some mined on nearby Schouten Island and employed the local children to collect abalone. The Dunbabin story claims that it was Sing that married Fanny Skinner but there was no consistency of how Chinese names were written in English. The man Fanny married was was Ah-Sin Yung, later recorded in the valuation roll of Spring Bay as Ah Sin and Sing Yung.

On the marriage certificate the groom is said to be a fisherman and the bride a labourer. The wedding was witnessed by her father and her elder sister Ellen. I suspect that William Skinner and the family may have worked and probably lived intermittently on Maria Island after 1870.
It seems that apart from Fanny and her brother William the rest of the Skinner family moved to Hobart in 1873. Fanny and William remained on Maria Island working for the Dunbabins and during this time she met Yung. After the wedding Fanny moved into her husband’s cottage at Long Point: soon after they had visitors.

The Hobart Mercury reported that in February 1876 one Anthony Trollope Robinson and and two friends spent five days on Maria Island hoping to find minerals. After a two hour voyage across Mercury Passage they landed and made camp beside the lagoon near Long Point, where Thomas Dunbabin had his house. The next day they walked across Long Point and passed a grave before arriving at “the cottage of Ah Sin, a good natured Celestial who gains a living by catching and curing mutton-fish (abalone) for the China Market. The shellfish are obtained on the rocks at low water and when dried are worth about £90 a ton in China. Ah Sin told us he sends from £150 to £200 worth away annually.

After enjoying a good cup of tea made by Mrs Sing, a blooming Tasmanian lass we walked around the eastern coast”. At this time Ah Sin Yung as about 44 and his wife Fanny 17. They had married in Hobart three months earlier.

Fanny’s arrival on Maria Island coincided with that of the wealthy Italian silk merchant Angelo Duilo Diego Bernacchi. The Italian’s ambition and money transformed life on the island and created employment opportunities as sericulture and a vineyard were developed. The 1880s became known as the halcyon days for Maria Island. Fanny and Ah Sin had seven children between 1877 and 1892. Their first two children died young. Thomas Henry Malcolm was born 6 Feb 1877 and died aged 14 and is buried in the St Mary’s Church graveyard at Triabunna. Lily Jane Elizabeth who died in March 1883 aged 5 and is also buried there. However the next five apparently survived to adulthood. William Stephen was born 28 Aug 1880, he married and had children in the Triabunna area. Richard Samuel was born 24 May 1883 and died in 1897 he was buried with his father and grandfather William Skinner at Queenborough Cemetery Amy Edith b. 28 Dec 1885 married Charles Sanderson and lived in Hobart until her death in 1957. Joseph Jasper b. 30 Jun 1888, Arthur James b. 21 March 1892 lived much of his life near Triabunna before moving to Hobart. He married twice and had children.

Most of the births were registered by the Sub Inspector of Police at Triabunna William Woods who would occasionally note that Ah-Sin and Fanny (sometimes called Annie) had another child. The father of youngest and two oldest boys was recorded as Thomas Young (the name recorded on Fanny’s marriage certificate.) Fanny’s mother registered the birth of Thomas in Hobart in February 1877 she said the father was Thomas Young and he was a farmer. When the Police registered births they recorded the father by his Chinese name. It seems that the Skinner family preferred the anglicised form.

The Valuation Roll indicates that Ah-Sin Yung moved to Triabunna in late 1879. They lived in a house (possibly in Selwyn Street) owned by a Mr Robinson. However when Ah Sin Yung’s seventh child, Arthur James was born in March 1892 his mother registered the birth and gave Maria Island as her address. Perhaps they moved backwards and forwards for as late as 1903 ‘William Yung’ is listed as living on 24 acres on the Island owned by ‘W Sing Yung’. Perhaps after returning to the Island for a time they left their eldest son William there and settled at Triabunna for by February 1894 Ah-Sin owned 10 acres of ‘bush land’ there and was recorded in the same way up to February 1897. Ah-Sin Yung died in Hobart in June 1897 and was buried in the old Queenborough Cemetery with his father-in-law William Skinner.

Amy Edith, born 28 Dec 1885 married Charles Sanderson and lived in Hobart until her death in 1957. Joseph Jasper, born 30 Jun 1888, Arthur James, born 21 March 1892 lived his early life near Triabunna working as a farm hand. He moved to Hobart where, in March 1915 his first wife Thelma Laurie gave birth to a daughter Lenna Pearl very soon after the wedding. A son Ronald was born in September 1916 and a month later Arthur enlisted in the AIF. After almost 4 years in the Army Arthur returned to live in North Hobart and worked at the Zinc Works. He abandoned his family and remarried and had another daughter. Ronald Young drowned in 1931 but Lenna was still very much alive in 2009; she and her descendants live in Western Australia.

Amy and Charles Sanderson

A Second Marriage and a Byzantine family

In February 1898 Fanny, ‘Mrs Sing Yung’ was recorded as owning and occupying a house and land and as living in a house in Selwyn Street owned by Mrs Robinson . Fanny stated she was a widow when registering the birth of her eighth child Tasman Arthur Young on 30 June 1899.

Fanny’s brother William Henry Skinner was a year younger.. Both were born at Bream Creek and later moved to Maria Island to work for the Dunbabin’s. He was twenty seven when he married Emma Fox, then 28, at Triabunna on 15 August 1888; Fanny had just given birth to her sixth child. In 1889 Emma and William had a daughter, Elsie. . The Tasmanian Post Office Directory the edition for 1890-1 records ‘William Skinner’ as a labourer living on the Island so it is probable that William and Emma lived on the Island. After less than three years of marriage Emma died in May 1891. It seems likely than Elsie joined Fanny’s family. Emma had an elder sister Louisa had married the widower Robert George Walter Castle in Hobart in May 1881. Fanny was to become his third wife in December 1902.

Castle came from a pioneering local family had a property Craigdale at Grindstone Bay as well as shops and ships and nine children. His grandfather had been the original grantee of Banwell at Little Swanport on 1827; named after his home village in Somerset. But Joseph was speared by aborigines two years later and he had to return to Hobart and began a family interests in ships. When Joseph died Robert Castle’s parents John and Grace, and an uncle returned to Banwell where Robert was born in 1840. His family moved back to Hobart and John became a boat builder at Battery Point with John Watson. During this time Watson built at least one boat for Thomas Lucas and John Castle must have known Michael Connor, (Nell Skinner’s father-in-law.)After 12 years in Hobart they moved back to Banwell and built a freestone house to replace the original timber huts. Land was leased adjacent to the grant and also at Grindstone Bay. When he was 19 Robert Castle married his cousin the 25 year old Mary Dyer at St David’s Cathedral in Hobart. In the next two years Mary bore two children in Hobart before moving to Craigdale in 1864 she died of exhaustion while giving birth to her ninth child in 1875.

John Castle died unexpectedly in June 1874 without leaving a will. Robert as the oldest surviving child was the major beneficiary. His sister Harriet took responsibility for the children and around 1880 Robert took an interest in the Fox sisters. Louisa, then 25 and her sister Emma, 20, were two of the very large family of William and Louisa Morely who had married in the Spring Bay District in 1849. They then moved to Richmond where the girls were born before returning to Spring Bay around 1864 . Robert Castle married the elder sister in Hobart in May 1881; the bride was noticeably pregnant. Three months later both Louisa and Emma gave birth to their first babies one day apart – Mary Jane and Grace; both were fathered by Robert Castle.

Louisa bore six more of Robert’s children between 1883 and 1896. By this time Fanny was almost 40 was living as a widow in Triabunna with her five children plus Grace and Elsie. Her sister-in-law Louisa was dying of pleurisy and Fanny began a liaison with the 58 year old Castle who was also living in the town having ‘lost’ Craigdale. Louisa died in September 1898 and nine months later Fanny’s eighth child, and Castle’s seventeenth, Tasman Young was born. Fanny legally became Fox’s third wife on December 1902 in St Mary’s Church of England in Triabunna. (When Castle died in 1929 his will acknowledged Tasman as his child. )

Fanny became stepmother to Castle’s seven children from his second marriage who ranged in age from four to eleven. Fortunately for her his eight surviving child from his first marriage were now adults. In addition there was Grace Castle who was now 12, the daughter of her husband and her sister-in-law, and Emma’s second child, who was also Fanny’s niece, Elsie Skinner. William and Richard Yung were also grown up and Amy was seventeen but Joseph and Arthur were only 13 and 10 respectively. So the 42 year-old Fanny now nominally had eleven children under 13 under her care. In practice Louisa’s eldest daughter took charge of her younger siblings but Fanny had had a hard life and her children were expected to follow suit. On the other hand Robert Castle was better educated and there seemed to be little reason why the children should have trouble attending school. Perhaps there was some justification for her reputation as ‘a wicked stepmother’.

Fanny’s second son William married Emma Poole in Sandy Bay in 1905. They returned to live at Triabunna and have exiting descendants. Fanny’s youngest daughter Amy left Triabunna and married Charles Robert Sanderson in July 1907 the son of a police sergeant and a school teacher. In 1906 Charles was a lamp-lighter. Amy lived with him at 3 Commercial Rd. North Hobart until her death in 1957. Her brother Arthur worked at Okehampton before he also moved to Hobart. In 1915 he married Thelma Wheatley and they had two children. Later he moved to Hobart and married Gladys Irene ?? and had a daughter Dorothy. At the end of his life lived in Yardley St. close to his sister Amy. (Nothing is known about the life of and Joseph Yung.)

Her youngest child, Tasman, was the son of Robert castle and was apparently often in trouble before he enlisted in the AIF in May 1917. His mischievous behaviour continued in the Army where served in France with the 26/12 Battalion. He returned to Australia in August 1919

Fanny died at Triabunna on 10 June 1915 aged 56. She was also buried in St Mary’s Graveyard in Triabunna.