Me, Dad and the Olympic Games

1956 was a very busy year for my dad, John ‘Jack’ Leo COGHLAN (1909-1974). Not only did he become a father for the fifth time—to me—but he was working at the Olympic Games in, our home town, Melbourne.

1957 Marg

The XVI Olympiad was the first Olympic Games to be held in Australia and the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. It was also the first Games to be televised.

Dad’s official position at the Games was: ‘Technical Instructor, Olympic Training Scheme’. The position was for 12 months as a teacher of broadcasting techniques. Three hundred technicians were trained at this time.

The lead up...

Dad’s service during WWII was as a radio operator in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), serving in New Guinea and the South Pacific. On joining up, he was already proficient in morse code; a lover of anything to do with valves, resistors, oscilloscopes or such like. As a teenager he built his own crystal set (a radio receiver that received radio waves by a wire antenna) and in 1936, as a 27-year-old, he obtained his amateur radio licence. His future in the world of technology was laid out.

However, an episode of intense communication during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 nearly put an end to his dreams of a technical life. During the attack Dad sent morse code for 48 hours. The intensity and repetitiveness of this action resulted in a ‘wayward’ right arm. Messages from his brain to his arm became scrambled. In my childhood years, the disability manifested itself, mostly, at the kitchen table: in reaching for something, such as, the salt and pepper his arm would rise up, like something possessed. To control it he had to bring it down with his left arm. We laughed. We thought it was a joke. And I must admit Dad made a joke of it too. Ever the comedian. But it must have been very frustrating for him. Mum told me she had to cut up his food for him after they were married in 1943. However, not one to be beaten by adversity (in fact, the COGHLAN family motto is ‘Courage in Adversity’) Dad learnt to write and send morse code with his left hand. Nothing was going to stop him pursuing his technical dreams.

Following his medical discharge from the RAAF, and as part of his repatriation back into civilian life, he was asked what sort of work he would like to do. He didn’t hesitate; telecommunications. He was now learning to manage his disability with a little Valium, a muscle relaxant, and his new found skill of ambidexterity.

In 1944, he took up a position as a technician in the Radio section of the Post Master General’s (PMG) Department. He worked in Broadcast House, Lonsdale St, Melbourne, the home of the radio station 3LO (now 774 ABC Melbourne)* on-air studio until 1955. Whilst there he learned a lot about recording techniques, even recording his young children, singing, on a ’78’ record.

*For a brief history of 3LO to 774 click here

The Games…

Amongst the family memorabilia are some of the official photos taken of the broadcasting areas at the Games. The following photos feature a spruced up Dad with a seemingly fresh short, back and sides, ready for one of the most exciting times of his life—besides my entry into the world, of course:

1956 Dad at the controls. Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

1956 Dad on left. Others unknown. Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection

1956 Dad top of photo with ? Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

An ‘unofficial’ photo’ of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is also part of the family archive. Family folklore says that Dad is the fellow in the white trailer perched precariously in front of a jeep in the centre of the following photo:

1956 MCG Olympic Games, Melbourne Australia. Apparently Dad’s the guy being transported precariously on the front of a jeep standing in the white cubicle on top of steps, centre of photo. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

It’s great to have these photos and it’s been an added bonus to find Dad in a film clip archived in Australian Screen; ‘Australia’s audiovisual heritage online’, part of the National Film and Sound Archive.

This clip comes from a film sponsored by the Postmaster-General’s Department (now divided into Australia Post and Telstra) designed to celebrate and promote the achievement of a telecommunications system for the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne that was modern and of an international standard. The Games, the first to be held in Australia and in the southern hemisphere, were seen as a chance to prove Australia could stage a world-class event.

In the film clip (below), Dad is standing to the left of screen, in his ‘supervising role’ at the 32 second mark. He’s on for about 4 seconds so you’ve got to be quick!

Australia Post – Olympic Post Script (1956) Clip 1

There’s also some great examples of home movies taken at the Melbourne Games by Bruce Beresford, Mike Leyland and Sir Robert Menzies on the National Film and Sound Archive. To see them click here

After the Games, Dad went on to have a very fruitful and rewarding career with the PMG. But his technical interests did not stop at work; in his ‘spare time’ he made our television set and stereo equipment, and to ‘relax’, he exchanged signal strength information and weather conditions with people all over the world on his beloved ‘ham’ radio. A true techno whiz!

Posted in Coghlan | Tagged | 16 Comments

Where did I get that hair…Mary Jane CAMERON?

I have a lot of hair. It’s thick and curly. As a child my mum attempted to train its unruly behaviour by giving me frequent ‘trims’. She skilfully wielded those sharp scissors over my head as a I dutifully perched on the high, yellow stool. The result: a short style with ‘room to grow’, which meant, a fringe halfway up my forehead.

1961 Studio photoMum had gained tips for cutting curly hair from an auntie of Dad’s, ‘Auntie Grace’, and she, in turn, had picked up tips from her husband, Charles Edward Cameron LEE (1875-1950), who had been a hairdresser in Albury. Auntie Grace taught Mum how to ‘cut into the curl’, angling the scissors so that the ends were tapered, resulting in separate curls rather than a ‘mop’. It was a successful technique and is still used by hairdressers today.

As I ventured into adolescence, I wanted to grow my hair. Mum was not a proponent of long hair as she believed it sapped energy. She’d say to me, ‘all your energy is going into your hair’. I’m not sure where she got this idea from, perhaps it was part of her family folklore or perhaps it was something she learnt in her 1930s nursing training. Anyway, the growing of the hair did not result in a perceived drop in energy levels but it did result in a voluminous nest of curls and split ends.

1971 Long hair

The long hair did come in handy though, especially for ‘up-dos’. I was a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding in 1971 and the fashion of the day was a slightly Victorian/Edwardian style: hair piled high on top of the head and high collars; Mandarin collars I think they were called.

My sister married on a public holiday, Easter Monday. Negotiations were ventured into with venues to open, as in those days most establishments closed on public holidays. The hairdresser, however, made an exception and agreed to open for the wedding party only.

1971 Wedding The hairThis was my first time at a hairdresser. I was excited. The sweet smell of the lotions and potions that would make my hair soft and manageable along with the cloud of hairspray mist just hanging in the upper stratosphere of the salon was intoxicating to an impressionable teenager with unruly hair. It felt luxurious just being there.

I don’t remember much else about the experience except that it seemed to take a very long time; my ‘do’ taking the longest. The hairdresser struggled to find places to pin the never-ending curls. And after the final curl was placed and the creation was secured with VO5, I stood up and nearly fell backwards; the weight of the veritable mountain that had erupted out the back of my head had altered my centre of gravity. I soon adjusted and, thankfully, stayed upright for the rest of the day.

But where did this hair come from?

Maybe Mary JAne CAMERON in locket

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I love a bit of genetic analysis; a search for traits ‘handed down’ through the generations.

And in the case of my hair, my initial thoughts turned to my dad’s grandmother, Mary Jane CAMERON (1852-1934), sometimes documented as Jane Mary CAMERON, and commonly known as Jean/Jenny.

As you can see from the accompanying photo, taken in the 1870s, her hair is a similar style to mine at my sister’s wedding a hundred years later. It’s certainly thick. I suspect this is a photo of Jean on her wedding day but I don’t have proof, unfortunately.

My curl probably comes from Mum’s side but I’ll concentrate on Dad’s grandmother for this post.

What do I know about Mary Jane CAMERON?

  • She was an Irish lass, born in Dundalk, County Louth in about 1852.
  • Her parents were Alexander CAMERON and Catherine RICE.
  • She had five siblings, that I know of, and they were all born in Dundalk.
  • She married Edward LEE in 1873 in St Francis RC Church, Melbourne.
  • Capture john leo coghlan pedigree
  • The couple started their married life in Murray Street, Prahran, Victoria living there for at least 10 years. The growing family also lived in St Kilda and Carlton and lastly, in Bullarto South.
  • The couple had seven children:

Family View Report for Jane Mary Cameron

  • Jean spent a good deal of her later years living with her married daughter “Doll” (Mary Grace Jane LEE), Doll’s husband, Peter COGHLAN (my grandparents) and their two children, Jack (my dad) and Nance. She accompanied the family to Cora Lynn, West Gippsland for the few years that Peter COGHLAN managed the General Store.
  • She died in Cora Lynn on 6 Jan 1934 and was buried with her husband, Edward LEE, in St Kilda Cemetery.

1920s Mary Jane Jenny LEE nee CAMERON

The photo opposite is Jean on ‘hair wash day’ in Cora Lynn. Drying off her hair in the sun, perhaps? Maybe she never had her hair cut! I could never have managed that.

But what of Jean’s early years in the colony of Victoria, prior to her marriage?

I haven’t been able to verify her arrival in the colony but I suspect she is the Mary CAMERON (16) listed with Henry RICE (47), both Irish, in the passenger list for the ship Morning Light which arrived in Melbourne on 9th Feb 1867 from Liverpool.

Why do I think this? I know Henry RICE was Jean’s grandfather as he is named as Catherine RICE’s father on the marriage certificate of Jean’s parents, Alexander CAMERON and Catherine RICE. His age on the passenger list is about 10 years younger than I would have calculated for him (from his birth notice in 1808) but he may have lowered it to comply with emigration rulings regarding age. After all, the colony was keen to have ‘productive’ people. The ‘Mary CAMERON’ listed is the right age according to Jean’s known birth year.

1866 Henry RICE leaves for AustraliaA further piece of corroborating evidence confirming Henry RICE’s emigration is a few lines I found in the Irish newspaper The Dundalk Democrat and People’s Journal dated  27 Oct 1866:

MR. HENRY RICE-a respected inhabitant of Dundalk, left for Liverpool on Monday evening to take shipping for Australia, where he goes to join some of his children who are in a prosperous position in that Colony. Always honest, trustful, and kind-hearted, Mr Rice has left his native town with the good wishes of all his friends. We wish him a prosperous voyage.

I have no evidence to support Jean’s parents and/or siblings coming to Australia but there is evidence that members of her mother’s clan, the RICE family, did emigrate, as inferred in the newspaper article regarding Henry RICE (food for a later post).

A clue to how Edward and Jean may have met…involving the RICEs and the “King of Maffra”, James GIBNEY…

A cousin on my dad’s side sent me a transcript of a handwritten list of names she’d found on the inside back cover of a book titled Spirit of Prayer, which was in some family memorabilia:

  • Auntie Bessie. Died April 5th 1890 RIP.
  • Sister Mary Angela. Died June 15th 1890. RIP.
  • Bella Denholm. Died Mar. 28 1891
  • Rev. Mother Margaret. Died April 13th 1891. RIP
  • Auntie Gibney. Died March 18th 1893. RIP

And inside the front cover was the following handwritten note:

K. E. Lee, Murray Street, Prahran. April 7th 1888′

with the words ‘Windsor’ and ‘Presentation’ just visible.

I think I can safely deduce from the address that the book belonged to the eldest child of Edward and Jean, Kathleen Elizabeth LEE (sometimes referred to as Catherine). I could also deduce that Kathleen was a student at Presentation Convent, Windsor. (To read more about the history of the Presentation Sisters in Victoria, click on this link to the website  Society of Presentation Sisters)

A map of the area shows Murray Street Prahran, where the LEE family lived, is only a 15 minute walk from the Convent. I researched ‘Rev Mother Margaret’ and found that her date of death coincided with the date of death of a Presentation Sister, Sr. Margaret Mary CRONIN, one of the first Presentation Sisters to come to Australia from Ireland. It seems the family had a ‘connection’ of some kind to the Presentation Sisters-perhaps going back as far as Ireland. A whole new track to go down…..

But what really intrigued me about the list of names was the entry, ‘Auntie Gibney’.

I’d often wondered if there was a connection between James GIBNEY, a land owner in Maffra in the mid 1800s, and the naming of Edward and Jean’s youngest child, Edward James Gibney LEE (Walter ‘Alan’ LEE’s father). I’m pretty sure the following research holds the key…

A search for James GIBNEY of Maffra…

I did a search for ‘James GIBNEY’ and ‘Maffra’ in Trove. His obituary in the Maffra Spectator, dated 28 Dec 1899, gave me an approximate date of death and a burial place:

1899 Obituary for James GIBNEY

1899 Obituary for James GIBNEY Maffra Spectator (Vic. : 1882 – 1920), Thursday, 28 December 1899, page 3. Accessed through Trove.



We, in common with old residents of Maffra, regret the demise of Mr James Gibney, which sad event occurred at Richmond last Thursday. The pseudonym, “King of Maffra” was in every way applicable to the deceased. He was the founder of the Macalister Hotel in the early days; he built at his own expense the bridge spanning the Macalister River; he was the mainstay of the church in connection with the Roman Catholic religion here and was never found wanting, in fact he practically provided funds for the building of the first chapel. Mr Gibney settled down here in one of our most comfortable homes, but at the death of his wife some few years ago he bade adieu to the district. According to the old adage, ‘Good deeds live after men!’ Did the man who has left this mortal life imagine there would have been TWO sympathisers to meet his remains at the Maffra station and FOUR to follow the bier to God’s acre?

No direct clues there …

A further search for James GIBNEY, this time on the website Australian Cemeteries revealed the details of the occupants of his grave in the Maffra Cemetery:

MAffra Cemetery Gibney graves with headingsThis information gave me James GIBNEY’s exact date of death, 21/12/1899, his second name, Joseph, and where he came from, ‘Native of Dublin Ireland‘. It also revealed details of his wife, Margaret. And, lo and behold, her date of death, 18/3/1893 coincided with ‘Auntie Gibney”s date of death. I had a connection…

Monument at grave site of James GIBNEY and his wife Margaret GIBNEY nee RICE

Monument at grave site of James GIBNEY and his wife Margaret GIBNEY née RICE

James Joseph GIBNEY () and Margaret GIBNEY nee RICE (-1893E

James Joseph GIBNEY (c1824-1899) and Margaret GIBNEY née RICE (c1827-1893)

Upon request, the kind people at Australian Cemeteries supplied me with photos of the grave site of James and his wife, Margaret GIBNEY in Maffra Cemetery.

As you can see, there is quite a substantial monument erected to James and his wife. It’s topped with a Celtic Cross and the Harp of Erin sits just below it.

The side of the monument reads:

Of …… ……… pray

For the eternal repose of










So, how was Margaret GIBNEY, alias ‘Auntie Gibney’, related/connected to the LEE family?

A search on BDM Vic using her date of death revealed that Margaret GIBNEY’s maiden name was RICE and her father’s name was Henry RICE. Bingo! Jean’s mother’s name was Catherine RICE and Catherine’s father’s name was Henry RICE.

So, Margaret GIBNEY née RICE was Jean’s mother’s sister. In other words, James GIBNEY’s wife was Jean CAMERON’s auntie.

Hope you can follow that…

Land in Maffra

A look at a map of Maffra shows many allotments owned by James GIBNEY. I’ve highlighted some of them near the Macalister River on a portion of the map (see the highlighted areas on the map below). On close inspection, there is a small block owned by ‘H RICE’ (black square). Perhaps Henry RICE and his granddaughter, Jean, settled here on their arrival in the colony to be near Henry’s daughter, Margaret, ‘Auntie GIBNEY’.

The large block near the river owned by ‘J GIBNEY’ is where the Macalister Hotel was built and owned by him. It still stands on this spot today but has undergone many renovations. And the bridge over the Macalister River (where it says ‘From Seaton’) is the bridge he built. It’s named ‘Gibney’s Bridge’.

Map of Maffra showing J Gibney and H Rice properties

Portion of map of ‘Maffra, parishes of Maffra, Bundalaguah and Wa-De-Lock, County of Tanjil’ showing the allotments owned by J GIBNEY near the Macalister River. The black box shows a block owned by H RICE. Accessed through the State Library of Victoria (SLV)

Below is an engraving of an artist’s impression of the township of Maffra in 1882. Note ‘Gibney’s Bridge over the Macalister River in Picture 4.

1882 Town of Maffra Gippsland Engraved by Samuel Calvert. IAN 13.5.1882. NOTE GIBNEY BRIDGE Accessed online via SLV

1882 TOWNSHIP OF MAFFRA, GIPPSLAND. 1. Maffra, from Sale Road, 2. Avon Shire Hall, 3. Church of England, 4. Gibney’s Bridge. Engraving by Samuel Calvert in Illustrated Australian News 13.5.1882. Accessed through SLV.

The naming of Edward James Gibney LEE?

So, why did Edward and Jean LEE include ‘James GIBNEY’ in the name of their youngest son, Edward James Gibney LEE? Was it because they admired the man, James GIBNEY, and wanted to honour him by perpetuating his name? Or was it because James and Margaret GIBNEY were ‘surrogate’ parents to Jean? It’s possible Jean’s parents died prematurely in Ireland and her grandfather, Henry RICE, believing that Jean would have better prospects in Australia, brought her out to be cared for by his daughter, Margaret and her husband James GIBNEY, who didn’t have any children of their own. In fact, the more I think about this the more I think this is probably the case. There were similar arrangements in the next generation of the LEE family where children spent extended periods of time with relatives following the premature death of a parent or parents. Jean may have used the name with the idea of honouring her ‘surrogate’ parents, the GIBNEYs.

A possible scenario of how Jean CAMERON met Edward LEE:

After arriving in Melbourne in 1867, Henry RICE settles in Maffra with his granddaughter, Jean CAMERON, in order to be near his daughter, Margaret GIBNEY, née RICE. Jean spends much of her time in the Macalister Hotel helping her ‘Auntie GIBNEY’ who has no children of her own. The LEE brothers, Edward and Charles, are frequent visitors to the Macalister Hotel after rowing their boat up the river from their farms in Upper Maffra (Newry)—after all, they’re descendants of Thames lightermen, they know how to manage water transport. Edward takes a shine to the teenager with the full head of hair, Jean, but they wait until she’s 21 and he’s established himself in his profession as a wood engraver before they marry in 1873.

All supposition…but a possibility, I guess.


  • It turns out that ‘Auntie Bessie’, mentioned in the Spirit of Prayer, is also connected to the RICE family (for a later post)…
  • An interesting finding regarding the Macalister Hotel is that George MILLET (1851-1906), Mum’s great-uncle bought the hotel in the 1880s, and in the 1930s, Mum’s father, William Thomas Rupert WINTER was the publican there. So, the Macalister Hotel was in the hands of both sides of my parents’ pioneering families. This was years before my parents met and it’s highly unlikely the families would have known each other. An amazing case of 6 degrees of separation!
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My DNA. Results are in.

I’d often thought about submitting my genes for analysis to establish and/or verify my ethnic origins. Genetic testing has become a very popular thing to do in the genealogical world. The impetus to act, finally came in the form of an email I received a few months ago. It was from a relative of the WINTER clan still living in Ireland—my mother’s paternal line. The relative informed me that she’d done the test and she was ‘95% Irish’. This was interesting, as it basically put to bed the theory that the WINTERs had migrated from Germany to Ireland, possibly, to escape religious persecution. It meant that the WINTERs were, in fact, ‘natives’ of Ireland.

The genetic line this relative carried had been passed down, in Ireland, for many generations. I, however, was a mixture. From what I knew of my heritage, I was 75% Irish, and 25% English. Three quarters of my great-great-grandparents, 12 out of 16 in fact, were born in Ireland: Luke COGHLAN, Ellen NEVIN, Martin QUINLAN, Ellen DUNN, Alexander CAMERON, Catherine RICE, Edward WINTER, Honoria TANCRED, Susanna FITZPATRICK, Jane BLAIR, Edward BOWES and Catherine KEEGAN. The other four were born in England: Edward LEE, Jemima WILLIAMS, George MILLETT and William SELLERS. I wondered, if I did the test, would it show this mix as I had calculated it or, would there be surprises? A Viking, perhaps?

My results arrived via email, two months after my little vial of spittle had flown over the Pacific to the AncestryDNA lab in America. The results were exciting… and surprising.

Here they are:

My AncestryDNA results

2016 My AncestryDNA results. Courtesy of

And in a little more detail:

2016 My AncestryDNA profile. Courtesy of

Yes. I am 75% Irish. Not surprising. But what about those other bits and pieces? And the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). 9%! That’s quite a chunk of my DNA. Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to dance the fandango or tease a bull with my red cape, so, what’s the story? has a lot of information about the different ethnic groups it tests for and after much reading it appears that my Iberian genes and all the other European bits and pieces I’m made up of are the result of the Celtic tribes moving across Europe. As it states on

Originating in central Europe, they [the Celts] spread to dominate most of western Europe, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula.

Admittedly, testing autosomal DNA (AncestryDNA test), that is, the hotchpotch of DNA inherited from both parents, is going to result in ‘mixtures’ of ethnic origins unless, of course, the parents have lived in the same place and married within the same group for generations. In that case, they may be considered ‘natives’ of the area. It is a fairly crude analysis, at best. There are other DNA tests available which will give more particular information: the Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the patrilineal line, that is, from father to son, and the mitochondrial DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the matrilineal line, that is, from mother to her children. The latter test is interesting in that the mitochondrial DNA inherited by a daughter from her mother is in turn passed on to her daughter, and so on. Results from this testing may provide valuable historical information about the origins of the maternal line. This information is often hard to find or sometimes impossible to find as women were not often mentioned in records or newspapers.

So far, Ancestry has ‘matched’ my test results with 37 4th cousins and another 60, or so, distant cousins. A few of them have contacted me and no doubt we’ll be swapping facts and stories in the future.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t score highly in the Viking stakes but I’m very happy to be a Celt…I think.

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A LEE Match!

About a month ago, a LEE ‘relative’ in the USA, who I’ve recently made contact with, emailed a couple of photos of a brother of her forebear, Charles LEE (1841-1929). Charles LEE being the brother of my great-grandfather Edward LEE (1840-1898).

The question….are the photos of Edward LEE?

Edward LEE sent to USA from Australia copy

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

Edward LEE Stewart and Co

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

One of the photos is labelled Stewart and Co., Melbourne. I found a brief history of the company on the Cambridge University Library website as part of a project The Royal Commonwealth Society Photograph Collection.

The project is a history of photographers active in the Commonwealth and the images taken.

Robert Stewart was a commercial photographer active in Australia. He had studios in: 267 Pitt Street, Sydney 1863-64; 396 George Street, Sydney 1867-68; 348 George Street, Sydney 1868-70. From 1871 Stewart also had a studio at 217 Bourke Street East, Melbourne. This studio seems to have become known as Stewart and Co.. Stewart and Co. occupied a (sic) various studios in Bourke Street, Melbourne, until circa 1900 (Davies and Stanbury 1985, p.235).
Sources: Davies, Alan and Stanbury, Peter (1985), ‘The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900’. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

The fact that the photographers were not in business as Stewart and Co. in Melbourne until after 1871 rules out the possibility that the photo is of the other LEE brother known to have emigrated to Australia, that is, George Williams LEE, as he died in Maffra, Victoria in 1864.

I think you’d have to agree that the gentleman in the two photos above from the USA, who I suspect are of the same person, bears a striking resemblance to the gentleman in the locket owned by my grandmother, Mary Grace Jane COGHLAN (née LEE) (1881-1958), one of Edward LEE’s three daughters.

The Locket belonging to my grandmother Mary Grace Jane LEE (1881-1958), known as ‘Doll’.

In a previous blog post, The Locket, I came to the likely conclusion that the images were of my grandmother’s parents: Mary Jane LEE (née CAMERON) (c1852-1934), known as Jean, and Edward LEE (1840-1898). Now, with the likenesses from the USA of ‘Charles LEE’s brother’ matching the photo in my grandmother’s locket this raises the probability even higher that it is indeed, my great-grandfather, Edward LEE, in the locket.

I was really excited to receive the images from the USA. They are a very valuable addition to the LEE story in Australia. So many thanks LEE ‘relative’!

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‘Duty nobly done’: two WINTER brothers KIA in France.


My homegrown Flanders Poppies

In ‘travels with my forebears’ I came across the deaths of two WINTER brothers, killed in action, in the First World War:

Private Herbert William WINTER (c.1888-1917)

Private Bertram John WINTER (c.1891-1917)

They were the sons of John WINTER (1850-1902) and Margaret FOX (1859-1930) of Lake Rowan, a small town in northern Victoria between Benalla and Yarrawonga.

Family View Report for John Winter captureJohn WINTER, the boys’ father, was the youngest son of Edward WINTER (1812-1869), my great-great-grandfather of Diggers Rest (see previous posts) and Honoria TANCRED (1818-1856). In an easier to understand relationship, the brothers were first cousins of my maternal grandfather, William Thomas Rupert WINTER (1875-1939).

Herb, the older brother, was the first to enlist. He ‘signed up’ at Benalla on 20 July 1915 at the age of 26. Seven months later on 8 March 1916 Bert enlisted at Wangaratta, Victoria at the age of 25. They were both assigned to ‘Reinforcements’ of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion; Herb to the 7th Reinforcement and Bert to the 13th Reinforcement. Herb eventually becoming part of the 57th battalion.

Herb and Bert were country boys; Herb a ‘farm labourer’ and Bert a ‘labourer’. Both single. Their father John, died when the boys were about 14 and 12 from tuberculosis. The boys may well have been the main breadwinners for the family before enlisting.

Their mother Mrs Margaret WINTER, ‘widow’, is listed as their next of kin on the enlistment forms.

Herb embarked from Melbourne on 26 November 1915, disembarking in Egypt. There he was admonished for playing ‘House‘ (housey-housey perhaps, a form of bingo/lotto) in the Moascar camp in June 1916.



He was transferred from Alexandria to Marseilles, France on 24 June 1916 and was killed in action on the Western Front at Beaumetz, France on 26 March 1917.



Not long after Herb was transferred to France his brother, Bert, embarked from Melbourne on 3 July 1916. He was transferred to France from England on 12 November 1916 but a month later he ended up in hospital in Rouen with mumps on 8 December 1916. He didn’t return to his battalion until 5 February 1917. So, for about 6 weeks (5 Feb 1917 till 26 March 1917 when Herb was killed) the 2 brothers were moving, I presume separately, in an easterly direction towards the Western front.

Bert was killed in action at Bullecourt on 15 April 1917, a couple of months after returning to duty and 3 weeks after his brother was killed.

I wonder if he knew?



The Australian War Memorial website describes the movements of the 22nd Australian Infantry Battalion after being joined by reinforcements:

In March 1916, the battalion embarked for France and experienced their first service on the Western Front in reserve breastwork trenches near Fleurbaix at the end of the first week of April 1916. The battalion’s first major action was at Pozieres, part of the massive British offensive on the Somme. In September/October they were moved to the Ypres sector then back to the Somme for the winter. The battalion spent most of 1917 bogged in bloody trench warfare from Bullecourt to Broodseinde in Flanders.

The family death notices in the Melbourne newspaper, The Argus, are each published a month after the deaths:

1917 Death notice for Herbert William WINTER 27 April The Argus

Death notice for Herbert William WINTER printed in the Argus on 27 April 1917.

WINTER– Killed in action in France, March 26 1917 Private Herbert William Winter, dearly loved eldest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, loved brother of Maud, Laura, and Bert (on active service); aged 28 years.

Sadly missed. Loved by all.

Duty nobly done.

1917 Death notice for Bertram John WINTER KIA 15.4.17. The Argus 15 May.

Death notice for Bertram John WINTER printed in the Argus on 15 May 1917.

WINTER-Killed in action, France, 15/4/17, Private Bertram John, beloved youngest son of Margaret and the late John Winter, Lake Rowan, also loved brother of Maud, Laura, and the late Private H. W. Winter (killed in action), aged 26 years.

Loved by all who knew him.

The brothers are honoured in two different cemeteries in France: Herb in Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extension Plot 1, Row B, Grave No. 4 and Bert in Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission manage the cemeteries. Certificates of commemoration as shown below can be downloaded from the website here

Herbert William WINTER commemorative certificate


Bertram John WINTER Commemorative certificate

My only sources for this blog post have been the records available through the various Departments. For further information about the brothers’ war experience the Defence service records can be accessed and downloaded from the Australian National Archives and the Red Cross reports of their deaths can be accessed and  downloaded from the Australian War Memorial website.

A very sad tale

Lest we forget

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Sunbury Festivals and my great-great-grandfather, Edward WINTER’s, farm.

Pondering the fact that Mum’s side of the family had strong links to the Sunbury area in Victoria, I wondered if the original WINTER farm as detailed in my last blog post How I ‘met’ my great-grandfather William WINTER. Part 1. was anywhere near the Sunbury pop festivals of the 1970s. I did a bit of googling and the results were surprising…

According to Wikipedia, the annual festivals (1972-1975 inclusive)—Victoria’s version of Woodstock—were held on ‘George Duncan’s farm, Diggers Rest’:

The four Sunbury Pop Festivals were held on the same 620-acre (2.5 km2) private farm along Jacksons Creek, 3.5 km south of Sunbury and 2 km north-east of Diggers Rest.[3] The property was owned by 50-year-old farmer and local identity George Duncan who offered the use of his land at no cost to the organisers. The property was known locally as “Duncan’s farm”… The entrance gates to the Sunbury Pop Festival were off Watsons Road, Diggers Rest. Promoters rejected the name of Diggers Rest ’72 in favour of Sunbury ’72 as being more suggestive of a good time and sunny destination. (Jenkins, Jeff; Meldrum, Ian (2007). “Festivals”. Molly Meldrum Presents 50 Years of Rock in Australia. Melbourne: Wilkinson Publishing. pp. 245–251).

The festival venue was closer to the smaller township of Diggers Rest, so many attendees who travelled by train alighted at Diggers Rest railway station, and not Sunbury.

‘off Watson’s Road, Diggers Rest’. This was intriguing. Watson’s Road, Diggers Rest was the southern boundary of my great great grandfather, Edward WINTER’s, farm.

I turned to Google Earth to compare the topography.

A wonderful attribute of Google Earth is that you can overlay an old Parish map onto an aerial view of the land as it is today. By lining up the main landmarks, such as water courses, you can see where the parcel of land in question is in comparison to the current features.

I made an overlay of the Parish map of Holden outlining the original survey of allotments, as accessed through the State Library catalogue, onto the aerial view of the Sunbury/Diggers Rest area as it is today .

After lining up Jackson Creek and the Calder Freeway dissecting Diggers Rest I could see how Edward WINTER’s farm lined up with the land.

This is the result:

Overlay of Parish of Holden on Google map of Sunbury and diggers Rest highlighting Edward Winter's farm

Overlay of Parish of Holden, County of Bourke (courtesy of State Library of Victoria) onto an aerial view of the current landscape around Sunbury/Diggers Rest via Google Earth.

Edward WINTER’s farm, within the black circle (Section 17 allotments C and D), is not quite down to Jackson Creek but no doubt some of the Festival  revellers would have walked or driven down Watson’s Road, the southern boundary of the farm, to get to the entrance of the festival. I don’t know exactly where George Duncan’s farm was but I suspect it was next to the WINTER farm, to the east, running along Jackson Creek, but for all I know Duncan’s farm may have incorporated the WINTER farm, or part of it.

The YouTube video Arriving at Sunbury Rock Festival 1970s gives you a feel for the general landscape-dry and rocky-as well as some amusing interviews by ‘Molly’ Meldrum with the revelers.

The farm was owned by the WINTERs from 1854 to about 1870 so we’re talking about a more than 100 year gap between the WINTER clan working the land and Billy Thorpe belting out Oop poo pa doo down the road. Not quite the singalong ’round the piano of Edward WINTER’s day.

My brother went to a couple of the Sunbury Festivals much to my mother’s horror. Little did she know, or he know, or any of my relatives know, that the festivals were so close to our forebears’ farm. An interesting little aside….

ADDIT I’ll return to Part 2 of the William WINTER story eventually…

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How I ‘met’ my great grandfather, William WINTER. Part 1

I didn’t ‘physically’ meet my great-grandfather, William WINTER (1845-1883), and neither did any of my mum’s generation; he died well before any of us were born. There are no photos of him and there’s no memorabilia—that I know of.  And it seems that any stories about him have been lost in time.

William became my mystery man. I had a death certificate but I couldn’t prove it was one and the same; the details didn’t ‘match up’. However, a concerted search through the digitized newspapers accessible through TROVE gave me the proof I needed.

The search enabled me to ‘meet’ William WINTER, giving me some insight into how he led his life and the challenges he faced. I’ll spread the findings out over two posts, Part 1 and Part 2.

For Part 1, I’ll focus on proof of his death.

Part 1  The search for proof of William WINTER’s death.

For those not familiar with TROVE it is a fabulous resource for historians, novelists, genealogists and anyone interested in Australian history. TROVE is managed by the National Library of Australia. It’s a searchable online database of resources available in Australia, including, books, articles, maps, movies, images, newspapers and just recently added, Government Gazettes. Besides the obvious value of the digitized newspapers I’ve found it invaluable for locating books in Australian libraries. It saves the laborious task of checking each library one by one.

But TROVE has been in trouble lately. The Government has recently announced cuts to its funding which will restrict the upload of new material onto the site. The announcement has resulted in a social media campaign #fundtrove. A petition to be sent to Malcolm Turnbull can be accessed and signed here.

Now to William WINTER…

As can be seen in the chart below William WINTER was Mum, Teresa Bernadette WINTER’s,  grandfather.

Pedigree Chart for Teresa Bernadette Winter

From previous research, I knew William was born at ‘Springs’ in 1845. ‘Springs’ was the farm his father, Edward WINTER (c1812-1869) was leasing at the time in Keilor (see the post What’s in a Name?). The Edward WINTER family eventually settled on a farm in Digger’s Rest, just south of the township of Sunbury. In 1870, at the age of 25, William married Mary Ann MILLETT, a local girl, who lived a few miles further up the road leading to the Mount Alexander goldfields (Calder Fwy), at the Gap.

It was evident from the birthplace being Sunbury as documented for the couple’s first four children that William and Mary Ann stuck around the local area (see chart below) until at least about 1880.Family View Report for William Winter

William’s father, Edward WINTER, a widower, died the year before William’s marriage. He left a detailed will. The family farm at Digger’s Rest was left to his four sons, William, Edward, Richard and John and £100 was left to each of his daughters, Honora, Susan and Lydia. Below is the approximate location of Edward’s farm in Digger’s Rest:

Satellite view Google Maps Edward Winter's farm Digger's Rest Section 17 Allotments c and d Parish of Holden County of Bourke

Today’s Google satellite view of location of Edward WINTER’s farm, Digger’s Rest, the Sunbury side. Parish of Holden, Section 17, Allotments C and D.

Family folklore told me that William WINTER had died ‘young’ and that his widow, Mary Ann, had married again to an Edward WILLIAMS. Fortunately, the marriage certificate of Mary Ann and Edward in 1885 had the death year of her late husband, William WINTER—1883.

I now had a year and I believed I could be pretty sure that the informant, Mary Ann, William’s widow, would not have got this wrong. However, the only record for the death of a William WINTER in 1883 was one in NSW with some troubling details—or lack of them—that made me doubt I had the right one.

1883 Death certificate William WINTER Armidale NSW

31 July 1883 Death certificate of William WINTER Armidale, NSW. BDM NSW Reg No. 10763/1883.

This William WINTER was the right age and was born in Victoria—correct. But what was he doing in NSW? Yes, there were WINTER relatives there and possibly relatives of Mary Ann so maybe he was there for work? I don’t know. However, the troubling details were there—the informant said William was ‘not married’ and had no children. From what I knew, this didn’t seem to fit.

As I’ve mentioned before it’s best to be wary of the information given by informants on death certificates. The informant, in this case, was the matron of Armidale Hospital, NSW. Maybe there was not enough time to get William’s family details before he died. His death may have been sudden (he had a 2 years history of ‘heart disease’). And maybe there wasn’t any family around as he’d left his young family with relatives while he travelled further afield, following job opportunities. All supposition.

For many years I sat on this death certificate, reluctant to add the details to the family tree until I had further proof. As TROVE came online with newspaper collections constantly being added I tried sporadically with various search terms: ‘WINTER’; ‘ARMIDALE’ and varying combinations, but to no avail. I knew too that if the print was not clear the search couldn’t pick up the text. (The beauty of TROVE is that users can correct the text which is helpful  for future searches).

A few months ago, I tried again. This time I used the keywords ‘WINTER’ and ‘DIGGERS REST’ and the year, 1883. To my delight the proof I’d been hoping for turned up. There was a death notice in the Victorian newspaper, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954) on Thursday 2 August 1883, page 1 and an identical notice in another Victorian newspaper, Leader (Melbourne, Vic. : 1862 – 1918) on Saturday 11 August 1883, page 40. The notice said William WINTER died on 31st July at Armidale, NSW, 37 years old. The details were consistent with the death certificate I had. But the detail that clinched the deal was that William was the ‘eldest son of the late Edward Winter of Digger’s Rest’.

1883 Death notice of William WINTER The Age 31 July

1883 Death notice of William WINTER, Armidale, NSW, 31st July. The Age. Courtesy of TROVE.

So, the NSW death certificate I’d kept was in fact the correct one. Thank you TROVE!

In Part 2, I’ll go into the possible reason William WINTER headed to NSW following further findings in the newspapers.

To be continued…

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A 13 year old biographer

When I was 13 years old, our English teacher, the delightful Miss Seedsman, gave us an exercise in biography. The task was to interview someone about their childhood and write it up in three sections: family life, school life and a description of a game played at school.

I interviewed my dad.

1970 Marg and Jack COGHLAN Mc Kean St Box Hill

1970 Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN (1909-1974), and me. Author’s private collection.

Dad, John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN, was no doubt a willing participant and, I can imagine, I was a diligent interviewer. I don’t remember the actual interview but, fortunately, I have kept evidence of it in the form of my finished assignment.

On reading it now, forty six years later, it seems very formal, especially referring to Dad as the ‘collaborator’! I’m sure this would have been Miss Seedsman’s idea not mine.

The following is the finished assignment with Miss Seedsman’s comments. There are a few cheeky details that Dad sneaked in. Was I being so diligent that I didn’t even notice or did I think they were funny too and included them on purpose? Who knows. I can’t remember. Whatever the case it gives the piece his ‘voice’ which is lovely. Hope you enjoy it.

The setting for Dad’s childhood is Bullarto, near Daylesford, Victoria.

The year of interview is 1970.

First up, a description of school life…1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 1 of 2

John Leo Coghlan abt 1913

c.1913 John “Jack” Leo COGHLAN. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

1970 An enquiry into the Past 57 years ago Page 2 of 2

Naughty me. I didn’t write a conclusion!

And now, some details of Jack’s home life…1970 biography of Joahn Leo Coghlan

Not sure what happened to that sentence, ‘His mother…’. I can imagine she wouldn’t have been too impressed with snowballs dropping onto the stove while she was cooking.

1920s Jack and Nance Coghlan and Snowman Bullarto

1920s Jack COGHLAN, his sister Nance and snowman. Bullarto, Victoria. Author’s private collection.

And lastly, the description of a game played at school.

Dad picked the game, ‘Trains’…1970 Explanation of 'Trains'

Yes, I agree Miss Seedsman, it sounds very chaotic. Not a game that survived the passage of time.

It’s hard to believe that what I documented is life as it was in country Victoria now more than 100 years ago. It’s not the best biography ever written but it sets the scene of a boy who had a pretty idyllic childhood and who liked to give a bit of cheek. Unfortunately, his mother, my grandmother, died before I was born. I would loved to have quizzed her about her boy and his pranks. I’m sure she would have had some stories to tell.

This is one instance where I’m glad I’m a bit of a hoarder.

Posted in Coghlan | Tagged , | 8 Comments

A search for the final resting place of the LEEs in England

I knew my great great grandparents, Edward LEE and Jemima LEE (nee WILLIAMS), did not follow their sons, George, Edward (my great-grandfather) and Charles to Australia, so, it wasn’t too much of a jump to assume they died and were buried in England. But where?

Discerning their ‘timelines’ in England led to a burial plot in Nunhead Cemetery, London. And contact with the volunteers, the Friends of Nunhead Cemetery (FONC), gave me the Grave number and photos of their final resting place.

Here’s the trail…

AS for many family historians, information in census returns is invaluable, and, the English ones are particularly good. They were conducted every 10 years. The 1841 census is considered to be the first modern census.

The English censuses can provide occupations, relationships, addresses, children, ages and birthplaces. And absences can suggest deaths in the years in between. So, with the aid of other verifying documents a timeline of a person’s life can be determined. This is great for those of us who can’t zip down the road and fossick through the London records ourselves.

So what did I find out about the LEE family?

(All the following information has been transcribed from the scans of English census returns available on

1841 English census

1841 Census table LEE

H.S. = Household Servant.

Corn Meter = ‘a type of weights and measures inspector who ensured that the quantities of corn traded at market were accurately weighed’.

1850 London bermondsey Cross Map (see Evernote)

1850 Section of Cross’s New Plan of London (St Catharine’s and Bermondsey)

In 1841 the LEE family, consisting of, Edward and Jemima LEE and their children, George, Mary and Edward (my great-grandfather), are living in Horselydown Lane, Parish of St John, Borough of Southwark.

Horselydown Lane runs perpendicular to the Thames in the parish of St John Horselydown, Southwark. The Lane is still in existence today.

I’ve included the details of the next door neighbours, George WILLIAMS, Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY, as they prove to be significant in regards to the LEE family in the next census of 1851.

Unfortunately, the census of 1841 did not include relationships to the head of the household so I don’t know how these three people were related to each other.

1851 English census

1851 Census LEE

George Williams LEE-Occupation: ‘AKC’ = ‘Associate of King’s College’. To be explained later. What I’ve learned about George will fill up many future posts.

In 1851 the family are now living at 1 Bath Terrace, Parish of Newington, Borough of Lambeth, away from the Thames: Edward and Jemima, their children, George, Mary, Edward, Charles and Alfred.

George WILLIAMS, who was next door ten years before in 1841, is now living with the family and is described as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Widower’.

Mary WILLIAMS and Elizabeth HENRY are absent. They may have died??

(I have found a Mary HENRY who married a George WILLIAMS but I haven’t found any proof that they are one and the same. This could be significant considering an Elizabeth HENRY (Mary WILLIAMS’ sister perhaps?) was living with them in the 1841 census).

1861 census

1861 English Census table LEE

Fundholder (Jemima’s occupation) = Someone whose main income was from the interest and dividends received from investments.

By 1861 the family is markedly reduced in numbers.

Edward, now a retired Corn Meter and Jemima LEE,  a ‘Fundholder’, are living with their youngest son, Alfred (scholar) in the village of Wonersh, County Surrey.

At this stage, I know that George Williams LEE, their eldest child, has emigrated to Australia (1852).

Two of their other sons, Edward and Charles, may have been off doing apprenticeships and Mary Elizabeth is?

George WILLIAMS, Jemima’s uncle, is not listed. Has he died?

A search for his death between 1851 and 1861 reveals many George WILLIAMS but the finding of a will in 1857 narrows the search.

One of the executors of this lengthy will is Edward LEE, a Corn Meter, and one of the beneficiaries is his niece, Jemima LEE. With these details I knew I had the right George WILLIAMS.

George WILLIAMS left a great deal of money to the Baptist Missionary Society and another decent portion to his niece, Jemima LEE. This probably explains Jemima LEE’s occupation listed as ‘Fundholder’ in the 1861 census.

There is ‘talk’ in branches of the family that the children of Edward and Jemima LEE came into an ‘inheritance’, possibly assisting them with the finances for their education and enabling them to emigrate to Australia. Uncle George WILLIAMS may well have been the source.

A search in FreeBDM gave me the reference number of the death of a George WILLIAMS in 1857 and in Newington which is where he was living with the LEEs in 1851.

I used the reference number to request a copy of the death certificate from General Register Office (GRO):

20 August 1857 Death of George WILLIAMS, uncle of Jemima LEE, in NEWINGTON, Co. Surrey. Courtesy GRO.

The details in the certificate reveal the place of death as 1 Bath Terrace which is the address he was living at with the LEE family in the census for 1851. Occupation: Corn Meter which also corresponds with the 1851 census and Edward LEE was ‘present at the death’. I was pretty confident I had the right George WILLIAMS.

1871 census

1871 Census table LEE

By 1871 Edward LEE is a ‘widower’ living north of the Thames with his daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who is now married to A F TILLEY (verified by LEE relatives in USA).

So, Edward’s wife, Jemima LEE, must have died between 1861 and 1871. A search in FreeBMD reveals she died in 1863, 2nd December.

Edward and Charles have emigrated to Australia (1864). I’m unsure of Alfred’s (the youngest son) whereabouts.

1863 Death of Jemima LEE

1863 Death of Jemima LEE, in LAMBETH. Courtesy of GRO.

1881 Census

No Edward LEE. This means he most probably died between 1871 and 1881. A search in FreeBDM for a death between these years reveals the death in 1875 of an Edward LEE in Hackney-right age.

I requested the death certificate from GRO:

1875 Death of Edward LEE Hackney

1875 Death of Edward LEE, HACKNEY. Courtesy of GRO.

Right one. He died at his daughter’s residence in Upper Clapton, Hackney.

Now, knowing the death dates of Edward and Jemima LEE, I investigated possible burial sites.

Deceased Online had recently announced that the details of burials in Nunhead Cemetery, Southwark, had been uploaded to their website. The cemetery, being in the general area of the early years of the LEE family, was a possible resting place.

I checked it out…

Deceased Online

A search of deceased online revealed an Edward LEE in the Nunhead Cemetery.

With Grave Number and Credit card in hand I applied for the details of the grave:

Nunhead Cemetery LEE and WILLIAMS from Deceased on Line Sep 2015

To my delight the results revealed the details of a burial plot containing not only the remains of Edward LEE but also the remains of his wife Jemima, her uncle, George WILLIAMS, and maybe, his wife, Mary WILLIAMS.

Attached records to these interment details of the ages of each person helped to verify that I had the right ones. But I didn’t know about Walter Henry LEE. He was 5 months old at the time of death.

(I found the death of a Walter Henry LEE in 1849, son of Edward LEE but he was 5 yo)

Nunhead Cemetery

Nunhead cemetery is one of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ Victorian cemeteries forming a ring around what were then the outskirts of London. It opened in 1840. It is one of two cemeteries south of the Thames.

As can be seen from the map of the cemetery below, Section 100 where the LEE plot is located, is part of the ‘Nature reserve’:

Nunhead cemetery map

After about 4 months, I received an email from the volunteers at Nunhead cemetery in response to a request I’d made as to whether the plot had a headstone and whether it was accessible. The volunteers had previously warned me that they had a long waiting list for requests of grave locations.

They were sorry to say that they couldn’t get access to the grave due to overgrowth but they kindly sent me two photos of the approximate area…

And a closer look below…

So, somewhere in amongst those brambles is the final resting place of my great-great-grandparents, along with a generous uncle and (I think) his wife and a baby. I gather it was too unsafe for the volunteers to pursue the exact location. Imagine scrambling through that!

It’s been an interesting exercise finding the burial plot of the LEEs, but by the look of that overgrowth, I won’t be rushing over to London any time soon to check it out.

Posted in Lee, Williams | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Sights and Sounds of Ireland Part 3

A slight change of plans….

I was going to post the results of my search for the resting place of the LEE forebears in London, but there are some copyright laws I need to work through regarding what I can and can’t post on the blog before I do that. It’s complicated…

In the meantime, I have a lovely, little, meditative video of an Irish ‘babbling brook’ you may like to ponder…It’s only about 10 seconds long—just click on the arrow in the middle:

I filmed this little brook on a walk up the road as pictured in the header photo of the blog. It’s in Ballyvourney, County Cork, near Macroom.

I’m not sure Australian brooks/creeks babble like Irish ones.

What do you think?

Posted in Ireland, Sights and Sounds | 8 Comments