A tale for our time
On 25 April 1910, Rachel Rose Campbell of Kilburnie Station married James Joseph Daley in Johannesburg, South Africa. The couple had eloped there as the groom’s Catholic faith meant John and Elizabeth Campbell considered him an unsuitable match for their daughter. Ironically, John and Elizabeth had themselves eloped to Australia in 1873.
Over a year later Rachel and James’ first child, John Campbell Daley, was born in Johannesburgh. Sometime between this event and the birth of their second child Elizabeth Brydges in 1913, the family moved to the town of Alsask in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Alsask was a relatively new settlement, declared a village in 1910, and a town by 1912. By 1916, it had a population of 300. It seems the Daley’s took up farming land, and two more children – Sheila and Peggy – were born in 1915 and 1917.
In November 1918, tragedy struck when Rachel and James succumbed to the Spanish Flu within days of each other, leaving their four young children alone and orphaned. Family legend maintains that the eldest children, aged only six and seven at the time, kept their infant sister Peggy alive by feeding her powdered milk until concerned neighbours discovered the children’s plight.
The children’s aunt, Beryl Anderson Campbell, was serving in London at the time as a Matron in the Australian Army Nursing Service. On hearing of the death of her sister and brother-in-law, Beryl applied for early discharge from the service, stating “I have been asked to proceed to Canada, to act as guardian to these young children, wind up the estate left by my Brother-in-law, and take the children with me to Australia.” Discharge was granted, and Beryl departed for Canada in September 1919.
The Daley children came to live at Kilburnie Station with a family and in a country they had never known. The youngest child Peggy was adopted by her aunt Alice, while Jack, Elizabeth, and Sheila were raised by their unmarried aunts May and Ruby. The sale of lands which had belonged to their parents in Canada helped to fund private educations for the children. Both Sheila and Jack subsequently served in WWII – Sheila as a nurse, witnessing the fall of Singapore, and Jack as a pilot in the RAAF. He was killed on a mission over the Middle East in August 1942.