1937 was a big year for Wep. Between March and August, he and wife Jess took off for six months in their caravan to travel around NSW and south-east Queensland giving him the chance to focus on his painting. However, just a month earlier, Wep’s mother, Thirza Jessie Pidgeon (nee White) undertook her own grand voyage of discovery, departing Sydney by ship for London on February 18. She set off alone and would not return home till nearly a year later; visiting the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, Fiji, New Zealand and eventually back home to Sydney, Australia. Some highlights of her trip included attending the King’s coronation in London and a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace where she shook hands with the King, and in North America, purchasing a car in New York and travelling across Canada and the US to California.
Thirza kept a travel diary of her trip and took many photographs along the way. Throughout 2013, these recollections and photos will be posted in chronological order according to her journal, seventy six years later to the day she experienced it. Considering the world had only just come out of the Great Depression and was quickly heading towards a second world war, Thirza must have been a remarkable woman to set off on such a grand adventure all by herself. Hope you also enjoy the journey!
Thirza Jessie White was born in Paddington, Sydney, on August 4, 1879. She was the third child and eldest daughter of John White and Isabella Garrick (nee McRitchie). Her father was a Master Builder, responsible for many of the lovely Victorian terraces homes that still exist today in Paddington, as well as the Paddington Town Hall and several rural New South Wales train stations. When Thirza was 11 years of age her father was elected an alderman for the Middle Ward of Paddington Council. The following year he was elected to serve a one year term as Mayor. In 1902, Thirza married Frederick Castledene Pidgeon, a stained glass artisan and part time artist at St George’s Church in Glenmore Road, Paddington. She and Fred set up house at 290 Glenmore Road in a terrace house built by her father. The following report appeared in the Social news column of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday, 27 December, 1902.
On December 3 the marriage of Mr. Frederick Pidgeon, second son of Mr. Pidgeon, of Sydney, and Miss Thirza White, eldest (daughter of Alderman John White, of Paddington, was solomnised at St. George’s Church, Glenmore-road, by the Rev. R. Rook. The bride, who was given away by her father, wore ivory merveilleux silk, tucked and trimmed with Brussels lace, and an embossed veil over a coronet of orange blossoms, the gift of Mrs. Edwin Bown, and also carried a large shower bouquet. There were three bridesmaids in attendance-Miss Pidgeon, in cream voile and cream chiffon hat; Miss White and Miss Bown, in white tucked silk trimmed with Valenciennes lace, and large picture hats. They also wore gold brooches and bangles, and carried shower bouquets, the gifts of the bridegroom. Mr. William White acted as best man, and Mr. Harold Pidgeon as groomsman. During the ceremony Miss M. Pidgeon (cousin of the bridegroom) sang an “Ave Maria.” The guests, numbering over one hundred, were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. John White at St. George’s Hall, and later in the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Pidgeon left for their honey moon. The bride’s travelling dress was of Tussore silk, tucked and trimmed with twine applique, and a large white hat with ostrich feathers. The presents were numerous and handsome. Amongst the guests were Alderman and Mrs. Oakes, Mr. and Mrs. Ives, Mr. and Mrs. Pringle, Mr. and Mrs. Richards, Captain and Mr. Webber, Mr. and Mrs. A. Maclean, Mr. and Mrs. R. McRitchie, Miss Patterson (Nowra), Misses Brady (8), Mrs. Bown, Mrs. and Misses Sharkey.
On August 4, 1904, Thirza celebrated her twenty fifth birthday with the birth of her first son, John Frederick Pidgeon, most likely named after her second eldest brother, Frederick John White who had died at age four. On January 7, 1909 at age twenty nine, Thirza gave birth to William Edwin Pidgeon (WEP), named after her eldest brother, William Edwin White, who tragically passed away just two years later, at age thirty, leaving Thirza the eldest surviving sibling.
In June 1913, husband Fred died of meningitis leaving her a widow with two young sons aged nine and four. The White family was close knit and Thirza and her young family were well looked after. Five years later she suffered the loss of a younger brother, Percy Rowett White, killed at Amiens in France in April, 1918.
In 1935, Thirza’s father, John, passed away at age eighty five, her mother Isabella having pre-deceased him in 1924 at age seventy one. With her husband and parents gone and her children married and established, the time was ripe for Thirza to explore the world.