Poem of the Month

December 2020

In my ancestry I've discovered two strong women, with qualities and endeavours well worth emulating. One was my maternal great-grandmother Emilie Sengstock (nee Ziebel), who came to Australia from Germany in 1873. My poem about her can be read here Emilie Sengstock (nee Ziebel). The other lady is my paternal great-great-grandmother Christina Stokan (nee Louttit) who was born in 1797. She lived her life on Scotland's Orkney Isles. Interestingly, she died in 1873, the same year that young Emilie arrived in Australia. Christina's great-grandson and Emilie's granddaughter became my mother and father.


© Shelley Hansen 2020

They ask, "Who do you think you are?" So famous people try
to trace their long-lost relatives, to find a reason why
the traits they see within themselves have passed down through the years -
uncovering within their search, lives filled with joys and tears.

And so I thought I'd shake the spreading branches of my tree
to find the men and women who were part of shaping me.
Of course, I found some blokes through whom a streak of mischief ran,
but also, sterling women like my father's great-great-gran.

Christina, born in Georgian times on Scotland's Orkney Isles,
lived through the nineteenth century, along with all its trials.
By 1821 this single girl had learned a trade
and listed as "straw plaiter", found the means to get things made.

She wed her sweetheart William - she was thirty years of age -
and in the field of business, turned an enterprising page,
for William was a cobbler, making sturdy shoes and fine,
and good results come often when two willing hearts combine.

The couple had four children, with a son named for his Dad,
but then an early passing left Christina grieved and sad,
for William died at forty-six - their youngest child just eight.
Christina faced a future that was bleak to contemplate.

But she, a born survivor, gathered threads and carried on.
She kept the business running, though her guiding hand was gone.
Now listed as "shoe binder", with another skill she'd learned -
residing in Stromness and trading with respect she'd earned.

Young Will grew up and married. Soon a babe was on the way,
yet at this crucial point he made his mind up not to stay,
but take his young and pregnant wife aboard a sailing ship
and make his way to Queensland. It would be a one-way trip.

They settled down in Ipswich where they worked to build a life,
and that's where Will is buried. So this Scotsman and his wife
began an Aussie dynasty that spread across this land
as sons and daughters married, and they watched their clan expand.

But what about Christina? She lived on till she was old
with stoic resignation as her children left the fold.
I'd like to think that though she missed her son with saddened heart,
he travelled with her blessing as he forged a brand new start.

I hope that her resilience has been passed down to me,
that I will face with fortitude events I've yet to see.
But when it comes to loving shoes - there's just one thing to say -
I have to buy another pair ... it's in my DNA!!

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