Winifred Julia Singleton (Winnie) was born near Ulverstone, Tasmania on November 29 1918, the first child of Arthur and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Singleton. Arthur Singleton was my great uncle. There is only one known photo of Winnie. It was taken in 1924, when she and her little sister Joyce were placed in an orphanage in Launceston.
Winnie’s father was at the Gallipoli landing and fought in the Battle of Lone Pine. He suffered shell-shock during trench warfare in France. In 1924 he was about to become a life long patient in the New Norfolk mental asylum. Meanwhile Lizzie had deserted the family, hence the orphanage.
The girls’ aunt had contacted the orphanage requesting their admission. In a rather cold-hearted letter she wrote;
Eventually Winifred was too old to remain at the institution. She was a little ‘slow’, but had been leaving for short periods to earn money taking care of children. By this time her mother was running a small boarding house in Frankston, Victoria. She asked that young Emily join her there, to help with housework. Reluctantly, she allowed Winifred to go too. The sisters left aboard the steamer Taroona on February 15 1936. Winfred’s savings were used to pay her fare.
Inevitably, there were arguments at the boarding house and at some point it appears that Winnie tried to stab her mother. She was sent to the Sunbury Mental Asylum, probably later that year.
On November 13 1937 Winnie died, aged 18 There was a coronial inquest.
I was heartbroken to note that under – NEXT OF KIN was the word UNKNOWN. How could that be? Had her mother simply left her at the asylum?
In recent years a memorial has been built at Sunbury, listing all those who died at the institution. But strangely, Winifred’s name does not appear.
I still have no idea where she is buried, or what the exact circumstances of her admission to Sunbury were. It is difficult to access the asylum’s records, but hopefully I will find the answers one day soon through a Freedom of Information request..
UPDATE – OCTOBER 22 Thanks to the help of researcher Ann Spotswood, I have discovered that Winnie was buried in Melbourne’s Footscray Cemetery. Ann is a member of the fantastic, Australian Ancestors – Family History Research Group. You can find them on Facebook. A phone call to the Cemetery revealed that the burial was paid for by William Jenkins. ‘Pop’ Jenkins was Lizzie Singleton’s defacto husband at the time. There is no headstone, which does not surprise me, but maybe I can visit the plot when state borders are open, and place some flowers.
There are of course so many more questions. Why did the inquest and death certificate state that her parents were unknown? And why was Footscray chosen over Frankston? Perhaps the fractured mother-daughter relationship is the answer to the latter.