From personal research but including research done by, and published on the North Coast Voices Blog (quoted as “NCV”) along with comments on that blog and the invaluable assistance of @Angrybudgie
The Prime Minister’s Dad
In the years since tony abbott has aroused the ire of intelligent people in Australia, some very unintelligent and unjustified slurs have been made about Richard Henry Abbott. Then again there are some interesting sins he does appear to have committed.
The first of the furphys to put to rest is that Richard was a Georgdie labourer or iron worker from Newcastle-on-Tyne in the County of Northumberland. While he was born in Newcastle to a mother who had been born there, his father was not a Newcastle native. In fact the surname Abbott is extremely rare in the county and there are no Births or Deaths recorded on FreeBDM for Ernest Abbott and there is no Ernest Abbott recorded in any census from 1891 on with a single exception. There is an entry for a House Painter who was born in 1873 which would make him 51 when Richard was born. An unlikely choice for a 24 year old woman, even in the man-starved years of Post WW1.
I have not only been able to find Ernest in assorted census lists, I have been unable to find him in any military lists which puts him in the “too young”, “too old”, “protected employment” or “Concientious Objector” categories.
The only place I have found Ernest Henry Abbott is at his wedding.
Ernest Henry Abbott (b. unk) Married @ Newcastle-on-Tyne in the Mar Quarter 1922 Jane Elizabeth Keir b Sept Quarter 1897 @ Newcastle-on-Tyne ( FreeBMD)
This is the marriage of the paternal grandparents of Anthony John Abbott, putative Prime Minister of Australia.
Jane was born in Newcastle on Tyne.
Their son Richard Henry was born 06 Jan 1924 and so is recorded in the March Quarter of 1924. ( FreeBMD)
There are no further children recorded as having been born to Ernest and Jane. (FreeBMD)
Jane travelled to Australia in 1940 on board the “Ullysses” with her 16 year old son. (NCV)
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 8th Sept, 2012 that, “Dick Abbott was a popular dentist who had taken to Catholicism in his teens. The circumstances of his conversion were peculiar. Dick’s father had made a bargain with God that were his family to survive a voyage to Australia in the early months of World War II, they would go over to Rome. Untouched by torpedoes, the Abbotts converted with some fervour. Dick was keen to be a priest but opted in the end for dentistry.”
(The Divine protection did not last for long after this voyage as she was torpedoed in 1942.)
It appears from this anecdote that both parents came out on the voyage. While Ernest’s birth and age have not been found, it is likely that he was approaching or into his 40’s and so was not “escaping war service”. Richard and his family, found lodgings or a home at 65A Union St, Cooks Hill, Newcastle, NSW. The “Ulysess” had arrived in Sydney so it would be interesting to know if the family had come out to stay with friends in Newcastle or had moved immediately to a familiar-sounding location.
Nothing further has been found about Ernest. There is no obvious candidate in the FreeBDM listings and no Ernest H Abbott appears in the death notices in NSW newspapers as found on the National Library’s “Trove”. He may have returned to England in 1954 but no previous researcher has suggested that.
Richard was immediately enrolled as a student at Newcastle Boys High School.
So Richard Abbott wasn’t a “labourer” when he left Newcastle on Tyne in the first weeks after WW2 began. He was a 15 year old boy, travelling on the “1st class only” (or should that be “One Class only) Blue Funnel liner “SS Ulysses”. As he went on to study dentistry at University, it would seem that he matriculated at High School which would have seen him back at school till the end of 1941, apparently working as an 18 year old labourer at the steelworks in Newcastle for several months before joining the RAAF in May, 1942.
So the next major furphy to put to bed is that tony’s father was avoiding the war.
ABBOTT RICHARD HENRY : Service Number – 422371 : Date of birth – 06 Jan 1924
Place of birth – NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE ENGLAND :
Place of enlistment – SYDNEY : Next of Kin – ABBOTT ERNEST
Interestingly, Ernest is shown as next of kin, not Jane. This appears to indicate that Ernest was here in Australia. But maybe not.
In one point the scurrilous wartime stories of tony’s Dad are true – he never did see active service although he did seem to keep trying.
Between the end of the war and 1954, young Richard studied to become a dentist under Australia’s armed forces repatriation scheme.
In 1954 Richard, aged 30, returned to England with his mother. Ernest is not mentioned. Interestingly, they did not return to Newcastle on Tyne. Instead they were “Intending to reside at Park West, Marble Arch W1” (NCV)
I have found no record of Richard Abbott’s occupation while in Blighty. It would be safe to assume that he was working in a dental field.
There is no record of Jane returning to Australia and, on FreeBMD, there is a death record for a Jane E Abbott of the correct age but again, in a strange place.
In the meantime Fay Peters enters Richard Abbott’s life.
Her father was Anthony Bredschneijder Peters, a carpenter. He had been born around 1907 in The Netherlands to Willemina Bredschneijder who arrived in Australia in 1912 and in 1916 married for a second time to Hendrik F. Peters in the District of Newtown NSW. Her mother, Phyllis Irene Lacey had been born in Wales U.K. and in 1932 married Anthony Peters in the District of Waverly NSW. Fay Peters was born 23 May 1933. (NCV)
Fay studied as a dietician (I was proud to think I had found this image of her on trove but others have done so as well! Clever Clogs NCV)
The Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday 17 September 1953 reported on an interview with Miss Enid Davies, the director ofthis course saying “Each year about l8 girls, who must hold a Bachelor of Science degree, apply at the dietitians’ training school for the 12-month course, which takes the form of post-graduate study. “We limit the classes to 10 or 12 girls, because we feel that it is the largest number we can adequately teach in the year,” says Miss Davies, explaining what constitutes the training of a dietitian. . . . . During the 12-month course, the trainee dietitians, who receive a salary of £12 a week as students, are housed in pleasant student quarters, run by the hospital, in Newcastle.
On 5 November 1955 Fay Peters arrived in England at Tilbury aboard the the P&O liner Himalaya, stating an intention to visit in the U.K. for 18 months. She gave her U.K. address at the time as Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. (NCV) The home of so many Aussie ex-pats over the generations.
I have not been able to prove a connection back in Newcastle between Richard and Fay although such a meeting would be likely as both were studying for University degrees at the time.
NCV (also a user of Free BDM) reveals that some 15 months later, on 12 January 1957 in the district of Westminster in the county of London Fay Peters and Richard H. Abbott were married.
Over the next two years they had two children, Anthony John and Jane Elizabeth before departing Tilbury Docks bound for Australia.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 18.Sept, 2012 that “After the war he returned to England, where he met Fay “Pete” Peters, an intelligent, energetic Australian dietitian. She converted. They married. Tony was born in London in 1957. A couple of years later his mother drove the return to Australia.“
“ABBOTT Richard Henry born 6 January 1924; Fay (nee Peters) born 23 May 1933; Anthony John born 4 November 1957; Jane Elizabeth born 25 January 1959; travelled per ORONSAY departing Tilbury on 7 September 1960 under the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme” Intending to live with wife’s parents at Bronte, NSW. (NCV)
Four years later, it is probable that Richard’s mother died in Battersea, UK.
The naming of the children is of interest. It is a very old convention in rural England that the first son is named for the Mother’s father while the first daughter is named for the Father’s mother.
After his return to Australia in 1960, the family increased with the birth of two more daughters but the family’s ambitions centred on little Tony: “His mother and I knew pretty early on that, with Tony, we had produced something out of the box.” The girls adored their brother. The boy worshipped his father. The mother worshipped the boy. He was in his mid-teens when his mother told a table of dentists in Sydney that Tony would one day be pope or prime minister. (SMH)
Richard Abbott began practising in Chatswood, eventually building up a major dental practice, Family Care Orthodontists. He bacame a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Dental Surgeons.
The family moved house to Killara and he eventually retired in 2002.
Biographer Michael Duffy says Abbott’s father Dick. . . “set out quite deliberately to make his son a fighter and a leader”, telling Abbott “he was superior to most of those around him”
One wonders if this faith in his son was the reason that, when tony had legal problems, he always fronted Court with a pack of Barristers and QC’s. Was Richard protecting his son’s or his own position?
(Further information will be added as discovered.)