Note: ·Source; Birth reference. NZBDM Folio No 3289/1904 Ref No 10 Palmerston North.
Marriage ref. NZBDM folio No 321/1926 under the name of Jewel Mitchell.
Julia Just nee Browne recalled much of her early childhood and her early family
activities well. These were related in the early 1980's and are recorded here.
Her parents moved to New Zealand about the time of their marriage because of
parental pressure on her fathers side. They disapproved of the marriage for
reasons not made clear to the daughter. An early house lived in by the family,
(estimate 1905/06) is on the Old Johnsonville Rd, just north of the number 6
tunnel on the Johnsonville Railway line. The house, new at the time, was
rented from a butcher who was said to have murdered his wife. The family
believed the house to be haunted - doors which were locked at night were found
unlocked in the morning. It sounds like stories from the active minds of older
brothers to scare young sisters.
In about 1907 the family moved to a house in Whitemans Valley. The house still
exists and is on the north side of Blue Mountains Rd, midway from the top of
the road and the old school house in the Valley. Ernest Browne was at this
time trying to make a living as a smallholder. However he was not a farmer by
any standard. He planted potatoes but put them in a swampy part of the
property and they rotted. He bought ducklings to rear but didn't know their
wings required clipping - they ate his feed then flew away. He planted wheat
which grew well but his timing was off and was not harvested in time - another
total loss. He therefore went back to his profession as an accountant (or he
may never have given it up). He travelled daily to Wellington by train to work
at Kirkcaldie & Staines. This required hm to ride by horse from Whitemans
Valley to the Silverstream Railway Station.
Julia attended the Whitemans Valley School as a four year old in 1908. She
remembered well the answering questions of schoolwork. Although she had not
been in the Valley for 75 years she was able to describe exactly the walk to
school, the layout of the farm, the road over from Silverstream and the view
over Trentham where there was a tent city at the Army Camp. A visit with her
to the valley in the early 1980's confirmed her geographic recollections.
In 1908 the marriage broke up. Julia recals coming home from school with her
brothers and sisters and finding no one at home except baby Marj (the Mother
had run off with a fellow by the name of King). They waited for a few hours
then decided to meet their father at the top of the hill. He rode the horse
hard from the Silverstream Station and was very angry when he saw the children,
the anger continued for the next few days. This could have been because they
were not at home or he may have been advised of his wifes departure during the
day. The night was very unpleasant, Julia being smacked for some minor
infringement and even the boys were crying. Soon after this the property was
relinquished and the family moved to Kilbirnie.
Julia recalls living close to the Lyall Bay School and attending classes there.
School records show that she attended until September 1910. Ernest Browne
apparantly had difficulty looking after his children and employed a housekeeper
to look after them and cook. What other services she rendered to the household
are not recorded. Browne then decided in 1910 to return to Australia.
The reason for this move was not known by the children although speculation
points to him seeking reconciliation with his family. It seems later that his
parents refused to have anything to do with him, possibly because he had
married a woman they did not approve of - a catholic.
The Browne family (Ernest, children & housekeeper) landed in Sydney. They
stayed in a house on the point from which the Harbour Bridge was later built.
The stay in Sydney was not long, perhaps a few months,before the family moved
to Melbourne. At his stage things become totally unstuck for Ernest Browne.
The housekeeper is said to be sick and departed. For some reason Ernest was
unable to care for the children and they were all put into foster homes.
The girls were put with a moderately well off taylor/dressmaker named Cook,
there they were clothed,fed and educated, for many years. However the girls
hated it. They waited the time when their father could take them away from it
all - but that time never came. Their memories are of a harsh unloving woman,
Mrs Cook, of cold baths, of hardly enough food, of being made to work as
seamstresses each day after school until bed time. The Cooks were the girls
legal guardians. The antagonism between Mrs. Cook and Julia resulted in a
physical fight between the two in about 1919. Julia then ran away. The
newspapers carried stories of her disappearance and she was wanted by the
Police, being under age and a ward of the Cooks. She went to the Flinders St
Railway Station with the intention of leaving the City but was stopped by a
policeman. He identified her and asked her for the reasons for running away.
He was sympathetic and gave her the fare for a train trip to friends of his in
Balarat named Mitchell. She stayed and worked with them for some time and
subsequently used their name to create a new identity. During this period she
determined to go to New Zealand and find her mother. However, she required a
job to raise the fare. To do this she moved back to Melbourne and became a
conductress on the Melbourne trams. She learned that her earnings could be
supplemented by reusing discarded tickets. She had not, at this time, remade
contact with her sisters.
Julia returned to New Zealand in December of 1922 aged 22 or 23, arriving on a
steamer in Bluff. She stayed at the YWCA in Invercargill. A job was
advertised in the local paper seeking strawberry pickers in Central Otago. She
went by train and worked well in the hot sun - something the local girls didn't
appreciate. When she was finished she returned to Invercargil where she
placed advertisements in the paper seeking her mother. This was her normal
procedure in all towns or cities she visited.
Her next stop was Dunedin. Here she was employed as a maid in a boarding
house. This catered for a number of students from the University. She
recalls a student, going back to his room after bathing and draped with a
towel, having the towel drop just when she was looking at him. "I think he may
have done it on purpose", she reflected later.
Her next stop was Christchurch. There she obtained employment on a farm at
Leeston as a housekeeper in a largeish household. She thought the name of the
people were Just but there could be a memory fade here. The owner required all
staff to work every day. This included other kitchen and household staff plus
several farm workers. When the other housekeeper left, Julia was required to
do the work of two. She objected to this and eventually led a deputation of
workers who pressed for and were granted one day off per week. On her day off
there wwas nothing to do in Leeston so she sat in the centre of the town for
most of the day. Having got no reply to her advertisements in Christchurch,
Julia moved north again.
Her next stop was Wellington. Again staying in the YWCA she tried to find
work. At the time, work was not readily available and she enroled with a
Salvation Army employment group. She obtained a job as a waitress in a hotel
in Pahiatua, the job went well and after some initial blunders she moved back
to Wellington and then on to Nelson. There was only a short coach ride over
the hill to Takaka where she met a "tall good looking man, the butchers
son"-Richard James Cook Just. Julia left Nelson and returned to Wellington
where she was followed by Richard, they married in St. Marks Church,Wellington
on 26 February 1926.
During her movements around New Zealand, Julia had not had any response to her
advertisements seeking her mother. In 1931 she ran further advertisements in
the "Evening Post", Wellington. This time she was successful. Her mother
responded from her home 49 Richmond St. Petone. A reconciliation then
occurred which lasted for the balance of her mothers life. Her mother had had
three further children (fathered by KING who she married in May 1914), Joan,
Dela and Doreen. At some time Julia made contact with her sisters who
remained in Melbourne and advised them of their mothers existance. None of
them wished to make contact so it was left to Julia to bridge the two families.
The bitterness towards their mother was expressed by Marj., usually a happy, active and compasionate person, in 1963. She refered to the New Zealand
family as "the bastards in New Zealand". This was technically accurate for
two of her half sisters. Like Julia, Marj also expressed resolute love and
loyalty to her father - a somewhat unusual position considering his apparent
rejection of them in Melbourne.
It is hard to objectively comment on the quality of this Just marriage. Soon
after the marriage the couple lived in the City but in 1930 built a new home in
Ngaio. Julia was always a reserved person who tended to be strong and inward
looking. Richard however, tended to be a cheerful extrovert, not too careful
with money. He therefore tended to like parties, visitors and his family
around him while she was looking to create HER home, the first she had ever
had. There was inevitable conflict.
They were seperated in 1954 followed by divorce.
The settlement gave Julia the house but it had some outstanding mortgage
repayments which required her to work for some years.
Julia remained in Wellington until 1960 when she went to Melbourne to see her
siblings. She remained there until 1971 working as a companion/help to a Mrs
Shields of 34 Lisson Gr. Hawthorne. On her return to Wellington she took up
residence in the Ngaio house until it became to large for her. It was then
divided into two flats and she lived in the sunny flat of the two.
In 1985 Julia had major blood circulation problems to her feet resulting in
gangrene and a significant loss of mobility and confidence. By 1988 she
required full time nursing and was moved to the Russell Kemp Home, she died
there some two years later.
Julia Browne was always an active and positive person with a good sense of
humour. Although slight, 1.6m tall and barely 45 kg. she always had a great
deal of drive and energy. She walked the Milford Track at 68 along with her
son Jack. At 78 years old she thought nothing of walking to the supermarket
2 km away for her provisions. Her reason for the walk highlights another part
of her character, racism and bigotry. She prefered to walk rather than shop
with the local Indian grocer. She did not like, as a race, Maori's, Japanese
or Indians. However she had great respect for Chinese and Pacific Islanders
so skin colour was not the critical factor. In 1946 she was happy to defend a
young jewish boy who was being set upon by older children. However this may
have been a reaction to bullying as much as to semitism. She disliked
catholic's which created a problem as her second family were catholic. Julia's
children took great delight in waiting until she had expressed an opinion about
new friends before identifying their religion. In these circumstances she
found it easier to like a catholic who she had unwittingly given approval of,
rather than change her mind. The anti catholic bigotory appears to have its
origins in her early life. Her father was supposidly a Freemason and had been
brought up in a strict protestant way by a father who was an Episcopal Minister.
When Ernest Browne's catholic wife left him there little doubt that her
religion was blamed.
From the notes of her youngest son T.W.Just/1992
From Masonic Grand Lodge records, Browne was not a freemason FRJ/1996
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