Lin and Lyn

John Alfred Lindsay and Evelyn Mabel (McLean) Burge

Lindsay and Evelyn 
Both taken at about the same time, circa 1939


Lindsay was an unusual child. His speech was poor, and he was sent to an 'elocutionist' or speech therapist for some time. He was also diagnosed with 'St. Vitus Dance' a condition of uncontrollable, purposeless movements and facial grimacing. Many years later, I have to wonder about this. My grandson has been diagnosed with high functioning autism, and other family members show symptoms of this disorder - I believe it likely that dad suffered a very mild form of autism such as Asperger's Syndrome, but this disorder would not be discovered for another forty years after his birth. The above symptoms, and many others I was to witness in later years, are consistent with this. Lindsay's older sister Amy also had a child with profound autism. Lindsay, however, was highly intelligent, read widely and had a brilliant vocabulary. Any deficits he may have had as a child were overcome by pure determination as an adult. If this is the case, he was in excellent company - Albert Einstein and Bill Gates are also reputed to have had this disorder! 

He did well academically at school, and, being a country boy who ran in the bush all the time, was very good at running and high-jumping. There are school photo's and details of some of his winning performances on my Redbank Photo Album page if you'd like to see more.


Young Lindsay's first job was at Redbank Dredging N/L, a gold mining company, where he started in 1938. He was initially employed as a maintenance and welding assistant, then as a welder. He left there in 1940 and moved to Geelong, where he he worked at the Ford Motor Company as a welder, then moved on to Winstanly, Coghlan & Co, where he worked on aircraft construction for two years.

This is the point where my two separate sites of family history converge.

Lindsay and Evelyn met at a dance at the Corio Club, Geelong in the early 1940's. He took her home that night, only to be met by what he described as a "nasal and nasty voice" that he "was to become familiar with in ensuing years", saying "Your mother should be ashamed of you". He was philandering with the local girls instead of being off at the war, where all well brought-up young men should be - according to my grandfather, Archie McLean. Somewhat turned off his "small amatory advances" by this, Lin attempted unsuccessfully to defend himself, and went home. 

He was to run into Evelyn again the next day when she was out with a friend, and they arranged their first date for the next Tuesday. He took her for an afternoon drive, unfortunately for the couple, and any further amatory advances - he had driven onto a "lovely green paddock" which turned out to be the Geelong Golf course. A groundkeeper chased them for over a mile, in which Lindsay had stopped twice, shouting at them, before he finally caught up and told them where they were - and to leave. Country boy Lindsay had never seen a golf course before. Lin braved Archie again, taking Evelyn home, only to be called inside and told that he was to leave her alone, as she was "promised to another, a member of the Royal Australian Navy who was away fighting for him". (This was pure fabrication on Archie's part, but dad didn't know that for a long time afterwards!) Although he refused to promise not to see her again, Lindsay gave up. He didn't see Evelyn again for months, and had a number of other girlfriends.

He was to run into her again at the Friday night dance at the Palais, in Geelong. to quote him, "I can picture her in a black dress, coming down the stairs from the upstairs section, and I thought "what am I fiddling around for?" 


Lindsay's war effort was not quite as Archie had originally envisaged it. Dad told me once, many years later, that he had attempted to join up and been refused on medical grounds. At the time of telling me, he put this across as a positive thing - he was by then a conscientous objector to the Vietnam War, and supported young Australian men who were jailed as a result of refusing to go by writing letters to them... However it was a very different story during the war. He had been refused to serve in the airforce for medical grounds, had appealed this in 1942, only to be told that the decision stood. He then applied to the army, but was refused, when he also appealed this decision, he recieved the letter I have transcribed below....

From the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service...

27th November, 1942.

Mr J.L. Burge,
Winstanley, Coghlan and Co. Ltd.,
81-91 Mercer St

Dear Sir,

Your application of the 18th inst., addressed to the National Service Officer, Geelong has been forwarded to me for consideration.

In view of the fact that you are employed on Aeroplane construction I am not satisfied that you would be doing any more useful work in the Forces and consequently I am unable to grant permission for your enlistment.

Yours faithfully,
D. Cameron
Deputy Director-General

He didn't want to pass on the fact to me that after appealing his original refusals, he was considered too valuable to the country to fight in the war! Considering their turnaround, it would appear that my mother was not as reticent when explaining to her parents. There's a wonderfully cheeky portrait in existence still (that I'd give my eye teeth for a copy of if anyone out there has one) of dad seated in a borrowed army uniform with my mother standing behind him, with a deliciously naughty grin on her face, that she had set up to tease her parents :-)

Soon after this, he told his landlady at his boarding house on Melbourne Road that he might be going up to Melbourne the next day, and, if so, he'd leave his shoes outside the door as a signal to call him early. She was surprised to find 'half his meagre wardrobe' outside the door! Lindsay had proposed the night before, been accepted, and he and Lyn were going up to Melbourne on the early train to buy her ring. They married, with "the approval of the McLean Clan" about a year later. It was a full white wedding, even though it was wartime, on the 11th of December 1943 at St Andrews Presbyterian, the McLean's family church. Due to the war, they had only a two day honeymoon in Warrnambool. Mum wore a black going away frock decorated with bluebirds, worked in small glass beads. A 'model frock', it had cost her eight pounds, or about three weeks wages.


Newly married, the young couple moved from Geelong to Sydney, where Lin  worked for the Sydney Steel Co. from 1943 to 1944. They lived in Sutherland, and Como, where the next door neighbor gave mum the nickname 'Pansy' because she was as pretty as one! 

Dad told me as a child of working at the dry-docks in Sydney when the Japanese mini-submarines invaded the harbour, and having seen one of the subs towed into the docks after it's capture. His employment reference from a Mr H Horton at the Graving Docks speaks of him working as an electric arc welder "on the largest arc welding job yet attempted in the Southern Hemisphere". I am fortunate to have copies of all his references for these early years - which are all unhesitating in recommending him for work in all phases of his profession.

Lin and Lyn moved back to Melbourne near the end of the war, and were living in Albert Park until the death of Lindsay's father in August 1945, a week after the birth of their eldest daughter. The young family moved back to Redbank to live with my grandmother Daisy, and all four of their other children were born from there in the next twelve years. 

This began a period that was described later, by dad's second wife, as his "darkest years" and I can only agree. 

The young family lived in poverty for much of the time, desperately trying to make money enough to live on from the farm, supplementing the income from sheep with poultry and egg sales, dad doing some occasional welding jobs, but having no industry to work in. The gold may have still been in the hills but it wasn't laying around on the ground by that time, and the specks to be found in the creek took too much time to find to supply an income. Dad began drinking a lot, mum spent a lot of her time depressed. 

There were also some light moments - like the day mum and dad went into Redbank to vote, leaving us younger children in charge of the older two for a couple of hours. At the age of about ten, my big brother (who had learned how to operate the steering wheel and gears by sitting on dad's lap and doing it on the way home) went for a drive in the old truck with all us kids on the back. Unfortunately, he didn't know how to operate the brakes, went for the pedals as we were heading up the embankment, but hit the accelerator instead - landing right in the middle of the dam. I still don't know how he got us all out, but he did. He then went looking for more mischief, and got one of the big lids taken off a jam tin with a can opener, which was as sharp as a knife... used it as a frisbee - and chopped the head off one of the chooks with it. Dad, apparently, came home, saw the dead chook first, then the truck in the dam, my brother running for the hills as fast as he could go.... and could do nothing but laugh hysterically at the incredible mess he'd made :-)

Dad said that he remembers them going out to a dance where local talent Evelyn Fishlock was entertaining, and mum referred to her as Evelyn Fish-shop after he'd danced with her - said that was where I got my wicked sense of humor from! He got bogged out in the bush, and she sang 'five, six, pick up sticks" and laughed at him as she got wood to put under the tyres to get them out. They went to the local football often, where mum was a surprisingly one-eyed supporter of the Redbank 'Reds'. 

In twelve years, dad lost both of his parents, after the births of the two eldest children in 1945 and 1947, Mum had a baby that died after three days - a Rhesus factor baby. My sister, Wilma Margaret, was born on 11th July 1949 and died on the 14th. She is buried in St Arnaud Cemetery. I don't know why, but mum had never  got to hold her. Her next pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage. Then two healthy babies were born in 1954 and 1957, the last one being myself. Six months after my birth, the greatest tragedy of all began. 

Mum's health declined for no reason anyone could find, she was hospitalised in St Arnaud, then sent to Melbourne to Prince Henry's Hospital. Depite exhaustive tests, she continued to worsen, weakening until she had no energy at all, losing weight, and obviously dying. She passed away when I was eighteen months old. Dad had been with her the at the hospital, and she'd whispered "I'll see you tomorrow dear", but the hospital rang dad in the night to tell him she'd gone. He protested them doing a post-mortem as "she'd suffered enough", but then reluctantly agreed, because he thought if they could find out what was wrong perhaps someone else could be saved in the future, and not have to go through the pain mum had. Her doctor later wrote to dad telling him she'd died of a "very rare condition called Refour Disease" (spelling? It's difficult to read) . Dad has written a note on the letter saying that it was "an inflammation of the muscle of the heart, associated with fatty changes in the kidneys and destruction of certain nerve tissues". I have attempted to research this and can find no mention of it at all in medical books, and a number of doctors I spoke to had not heard of it either. The report from the post-mortem he said he was 'bullied into' has not been kept, and there's no record of the reason for her death, other than the final result - that she had died of myocarditis that she'd had for two months, and recurrent pulmonary embolisms. The embolisms would most likely have been simply from being confined to bed in that state for such a long period. She died on the 17th August 1958 at 36 years of age. 

Worse than the already tragic events above, dad was blamed for my mother's death by her family. Not having a clear and obvious cause created suspicion on the part of people who were crazy in their own grief and wanted someone to blame. This also happened with my Auntie Hazel; although she'd died of consumption, her husband Ev was blamed for it in the heartbreak the McLean's had of losing their dearly loved daughters. This story haunted my child and young adulthood, and it was only when I was in my thirties that I finally found out it wasn't true. I cannot begin to imagine the trauma that it caused dad and Ev Farrell. My cousin Maureen and I spoke of the incredible heart-ache of being told this about our remaining parents as young children. It wasn't the McLeans that told me this though, the story came from much closer to home. More of that later...

Dad's reaction was extreme. He was heart broken, and I don't believe he recovered from this until he met his second wife in 1990. He walked off the farm, never to return except to pick up belongings occasionally. He arranged for us kids to be taken by various relatives, and hit the bottle heavily for two years. This is the only period of his life he has not kept tax returns from, and I imagine he didn't work for much of the time. There was a life insurance policy for mum in earlier years, and if this was still current when she died he likely lived off this and drank it away. I have a wonderfully subtle reference stating that 'he leaves us with our best wishes and I'm sure wherever he goes, that he will prove to be an aquisition'. This was from a Peter Poynton, who I was told was an underworld figure (but may well not be true, it is certainly disputed by his family) in the inner-city Melbourne suburb of Carlton, and the owner of the 'Pink Pussycat Club'. 

Dad met a woman named Freda, who worked cooking in a hotel he drank at, in 1961, and arranged for her to help him get the family back together as a housekeeper. He never spoke about mum, only telling me once when I asked that "she was an angel". We would hear him crying for his 'Pansy' when he was drunk sometimes. All information listed above on his thoughts of her were written many years later, after my sister and myself had asked about her as adults.

He asked Freda to marry him in these early days, and she refused. He never asked again, but they continued to live together for many years.

He slowly began to rebuild, and, after a few other short term jobs, worked at the Ordinance factory in Bendigo, while we lived in Castlemaine. He left us for a while to go looking for work in Melbourne, then moved to the Latrobe Valley on the other side of Melbourne and settled down to work for many years as a special class welder at the State Electricity Commission. He stopped drinking altogether when I was six. We lived in Morwell West, about three miles out of town. Freda stayed on, although by that time there was only my youngest brother and myself at home. She had not had my oldest brother come back with us, and he had a good upbringing with a cousin and his wife. My sister moved out of home very young because she didn't like Freda, and had married and had children of her own. When I was eleven, Freda left, and this began my happiest years at home with dad. 

We went surf fishing often, dad bought a block of land at Paradise Beach on the Ninety Mile Beach in south-western Victoria, and we were often there. We also went to the footy a lot, my brother played in the local team, and we always went to support him. Dad was obviously lonely, but occupied his time reading all sorts of heavy text-books, took up photography and eventually became extremely good at it. Some of his photo's are on my 'Family Album' pages - he had a wonderful eye. He became involved in the Union movement at his work, and eventually became the Secretary of the local metal trades union - he was very political. We had people that were to become very famous in our home a number of times for meetings. Bob Hawke, who was later to be Australian Prime Minister , a lovely man named Jim Cairns, who eventually practiced politics on a national level, and various other smaller time dignitaries.

I left home at almost sixteen, and went to live in Melbourne and my brother also moved out in the following year. Dad eventually convinced Freda to return, I believe out of loneliness, and feeling that he owed her for looking after us. They never seemed particularly happy to me. He was a quiet man, difficult to speak to, unapproachable in many ways. 

Dad retired in 1981, and continued with one of his new loves, travelling. Over the next fifteen years, he went to all the continents except Africa and the Antarctic, and would have gone there if he'd lived longer I'd say! He was among the first Western tourists into both Russia and China, went up the Amazon and all over South America, the Pacific Islands, throughout Europe and the US a number of times. He also spent a fair bit of time in Britain following up on another huge interest - genealogy. He loved Paris, and returned there a number of times. He had many hundreds of photographs he'd taken all over the world - and painstakingly typed the description on the back of each photo. These trips were funded mostly from his very astute investments on the stock exchange.

At the age of seventy, dad met his second wife-to-be, and knew that he had to ask Freda to leave. She had always kept her own home - not far from Redbank, in a tiny hamlet named Emu, near St Arnaud. He told me that 'the other woman' as I dubbed her reminded him of my mother, she sang around the house, was a very capable woman, and had very strong religious and moral beliefs. They were both avid gardeners. She was a widow with one daughter and two grandchildren. They married on the 24 April 1994 in Boolarra, Victoria, a tiny village in the hills in South Gippsland, where dad had moved some twenty years earlier. They moved into her home, but dad kept his house on. My family didn't quite all get back together for the wedding, as my youngest brother would not come. We had never all been in one place since my mother's death, and I was disappointed about it at the time. The not-so-young couple were like a pair of teenagers, and it was rather beautiful watching my father in love. He wanted to go to Paris for their honeymoon and she wanted to go to Niagara Falls, so they went to both, and then to Hawaii as well because they had both liked that as a second choice. I was closer to him in those years than at any other time in my life, and spent many hours on the phone from interstate where I lived, and we wrote to each other often. It was wonderful to see him happy - he'd never really been that way all my life. 
The honeymoon didn't really end until dad told me he had the flu, and couldn't shake it. My sister came down for a visit from the Northern Territory, where she'd lived for many years. She was concerned that he kept drinking cough medicine all the time, and confided to me that she was worried he might be using it like he used to hit the bottle years before. He had some tests done, and they couldn't work out for a while what was wrong. A second lot of X-Rays showed that he had lung cancer. It eventuated that he had been exposed to asbestos through work back in the 60's, and had smoked at that time, but had given it up in the early 70's. The combination of smoking and asbestos led to cancer. We never expected it, as no-one in the family had ever had it. He was eventually compensated out of court by the SEC a month before his death. We found out about the cancer in January, and he had four months to live. He wanted me to buy his house from his estate, so we wouldn't all have to wait for it to sell, and I moved down with my daughter Alia from Northern New South Wales to be near him at the end. I was silly enough to ask him for words of wisdom about a week before he died - and got told to not leave couch grass roots in the garden beds :-) 

He died at home in his bed, holding both mine and his wifes' hands just after 9.30pm on the 30 May 1996. It touches me that AA members around the country were saying the 'Serenity Prayer' at the end of their meetings at the time. This goes - God Grant me the Serenity To Accept the things I cannot Change, Courage to Change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the Difference. Dad kept a copy of this in his room for many years, and I loved it from when I first read it as a child. Dad once told me that he used the 'Wisdom to Know the Difference' part often in relation to me. 

My two brothers and my sister and I were reunited as a family for the first time around his grave. We've never all been together again since. 

As a point of interest, dad seemed to attract numerological significant people throughout his life! My mother was born on the 17th September, and so was her mother. Dad then lived with Freda - also born on the 17th September. He married his second wife whose birthdate was the same as his own - the 19 December. Her first husband had died on dad's fathers birthday - the 16th March. To add to all this... dad's Chinese zodiac was the Year of the Monkey, his Chinese birth elements were the very rare triple metal - and his grandaughter Alia is also a triple metal monkey! Dad had an affinity with Alia. They never saw much of each other, but there was a link I didn't see between him and any other of his grandchildren. When he died, she said she heard a loud knock on the front door just after 9.30, and went out and there was no-one there... she said later that she thought it was him looking for my mum, but I think he was saying goodbye to Alia. 

I still miss him. He would have loved genealogy on the Internet!

Next: Burge-Evans. It's all about me!
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Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, 
or would like to offer info on any ancestors.