Document 53490

Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
Eleanor Haidee Simon (1824-­‐1910) To be Jewish in Kew in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, was to be part of a small, rare group of individuals and families. To be within the count, one either had to be born there, live there or be buried there. An example of the first and the second is Horace Brodzky1 (1885–1969). The Hon. Jonas Felix Australia Levien2 (1840–1906), first Jewish child born in Victoria, is an example of one who was born and lived elsewhere but whose final resting place was to be within Kew’s civic borders. Eleanor Haidee Simeon (1824–1910), a sometime resident of both the Boroughs of Hawthorn and Kew, also resides eternally in the Boroondara General Cemetery. Some of the details of Eleanor Simeon’s life are surprisingly well known; others have remained until now undocumented. She merits three paragraphs at the end of the entry of her husband James Simeon3 (1815–1874) in John Levi’s chronicle of the lives of more than 1,500 Australian Jewish lives, ending with Levis typically off-­‐handed ‘… she was not buried as a Jew’4. And, yes it is partly that her significance does rest on her marriage to James Simeon, so that is a good starting point. More has been recorded of the life of the first husband of Eleanor Simeon than of Eleanor. That James Simeon had testified in trials at the Old Bailey in 1831, had contributed to the Sydney Synagogue Building Fund in 1839, had opened a clothing store in Collins Street, and his involvement in various legal cases is all on the public record5. His life as a Jew and his commitment to Judaism is unquestioned. All the more odd must appear his marriage to Eleanor Haidee Saunders in St. David’s Church in Hobart in March 1843. Tanya Warms in an article6 published in the Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal suggests that the location for the marriage may have been due to the absence of a local synagogue. The larger question, and it is typical of the period, is James’ marriage to a non-­‐Jew, especially in a group where the matrilineal line preserves the essential character of a chosen people. This first marriage between James and Eleanor across faiths was to have long standing repercussions. After the marriage, they returned to Melbourne, where 1
The artist Horace Brodzky (1885–1969) was born in 1885 at 5 Pakington Street, Kew. The Sands and
McDougall Directories list the Brodsky family living at No. 5 in 1885–86, and again at No. 1, after a
presumable renumbering in 1892–93, so it is certain that Horace Brodzky spent at least four of his first
eight years in Kew. His younger brother Vivian was born in the same house in 1892. The house where
he and his family lived was later demolished and the land now forms part of the Kew Primary School
‘Funeral Rites for Mr. Levien’ (
provides a description of the burial and grave of Jonas Levien.
Levi JS 2006, These Are the Names: Jewish lives in Australia 1788–1850, The Miegunyuh Press,
Levi JS 2006, p.693.
Levi JS 2006, p 692-3.
Warms T 2010, ‘The Jews of Boroondara Cemetery’, The Australian Jewish Historical Society
© Robert Baker, 2012
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Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
James Simeon is acknowledged to be a founding member of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation in 18447. From 1844 until 1868, Eleanor gave birth to ten children: Frederick Peter (c1844–c1919), Michael (c1847–c1923), Marcus Adler (c1849), Minnie Miriam (c1850–c1888), Henrietta (c1857–1910), Henry Woolf (c1858–c1907), Ada Hannah (1861–1874), Leonora (c1862), Bertram Leopold (c1865–c1866), and Arthur Isaac Saunders (c1868–1889). Of these, only four would outlive her. The early years of the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation have been well documented. So well documented that it has been recorded that on 16 July 1845, Moses Benjamin and Samuel Henry Harris called a congregational meeting to register the birth of a son to James Simeon and ‘Ellen’ Simeon. This could only have been Frederick Peter Simeon. On 18 July another meeting was called relating to the issues of making converts to Judaism. The meeting is relevant if one considers that orthodox Jews would not have considered Frederick Jewish due to Eleanor’s non-­‐Jewish birth. On Eleanor Simeon’s grave there are two grave markers. One undated memorial reads: ‘In memory of Eleanor Haidee / Beloved wife of / James Simeon / One of the first Colonists of / Melbourne / A true wife and devoted mother of first Jew born in Victoria / Erected by her son / Marcus.’ This inscription contradicts the known evidence, which is that Jonas Levien was the first Jewish child born in Victoria. If one considers the fragmented Jewish communities in Victoria who had separate synagogues, then possibly, Frederick may have been the first Jewish child registered at the Melbourne Hebrew Congregation. It seems a very forthright claim on a grave in the Church of England section of the Cemetery to mark the burial of a woman ‘… not buried as a Jew’. Sometime between the meetings called in July 1845 and October 1854, the Simeon family must have returned to London. Levi claims that at least four of the children were born there in this period8. Extraordinarily, a new Jewish wedding in the Melbourne Synagogue between James Simeon and Eleanor (now Sarah) Simeon was reported in the first edition of The Age on 17 October 1854, three days after the return of the Simeons from England, where Eleanor had, presumably, been converted to Judaism9. Both primary and secondary sources are [as yet] silent about the Simeons between apart from the births and deaths of their children. The silence may result from extended trips to England10. Then in 1874, The Argus records the deaths of Ada Hannah on 21 January at the age of 13, and Simeon himself on 21 August, aged 59. While the death notice11 in the Argus for Hannah lists her place of death as St Kilda-­‐road, James is recorded as dieing at his residence, Eugene-­‐house, 397 7
Levi JS 2006, p.693.
Levi JS 2006, p.693.
Levi JS 2006, p.693.
Ancestry records suggest that Ada Hannah and Leonora were born in London in 1861 and 1862.
Deaths: ‘Simeon’, The Argus, 22 January 1874, p.1.
© Robert Baker, 2012
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Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
Albert-­‐road, Emerald Hill12. His friends were invited to follow his remains to their place of interment at the Melbourne General Cemetery13. Presumably [Ada] Hannah is also buried in the Jewish section of the Melbourne Cemetery as James14. Following her husband’s death, Eleanor Simeon apparently moved from Emerald Hill. A court case15 listed in The Argus in 1877 includes her as a victim of two cases of forgery. In both instances Mrs. Annie James of East Collingwood forged cheques to the value of £10 and £5 using Eleanor Simeon’s name, using these to buy goods from Buckley and Nunn and Ball and Welsh. The news report of the proceedings lists the victim as living at 3 Nepean-­‐terrace, East Melbourne. Eleanor was still living in East Melbourne in 1880 when a ‘Notice to Creditors’16 appeared in The Argus concerning the debts of Henry Simeon, Furniture dealer of 187 Elizabeth-­‐street, Melbourne. If we assume that the Henry Simeon here mentioned is her son Harry Woolf Simeon, born c1858, he would have been about twenty-­‐two at the time. The next mention of Eleanor Simeon links her for the first time to the Boroondara area generally, and to Kew specifically. The links are residential and funereal. By 1889 we know that Eleanor had moved from East Melbourne to ‘Anchoria’, Rathmines-­‐road, Auburn. Her new place of residence would no doubt have gone unrecorded if not for the death of her youngest son, Arthur Isaac Saunders Simeon. His death was reported in The Argus. Fatal Boating Accident A man named John Harbordt, who resides in Irving-­‐road, Hawthorn, reported to the police yesterday that about midday, when he was fishing in the Yarra near the railway bridge, Hawthorn, he heard a cry and saw a man struggling in the water. The man went down almost immediately, and did not rise again. A white canoe was floating in the river, bottom upwards. The police recovered the canoe, and from inquiries subsequently made they ascertained that it belonged to a young man named Arthur Simeon, who resided with his widowed mother in Rathmines-­‐road, Hawthorn. Dragging operations were at once commenced, but the body had not been recovered last night. Harbodt states that there were several persons on the banks of the river at the time when the accident occurred, but the unfortunate man sank so quickly that no assistance could be tendered to him.17 12
In the 1871 Victorian Census, 69 Jewish men and 39 Jewish women are recorded as living at
Emerald Hill on the night of the Census. It was the fourth most popular locality as a residence for Jews
in Melbourne at the time, following Melbourne (1,486), Fitzroy (389) and Brighton (329).
Funeral notices: ‘Simeon’, The Argus, 21 August 1874, p.8.
Levi (2006) records, without evidence to support his claim that James Simeon was buried a Jew
‘Forgery and Uttering By a Woman’, The Argus, 14 March 1877, p.7.
Judicial and Law Notices: ‘Notice to Creditors’, The Argus, 20 May 1880, p.8.
‘Fatal Boating Accident’, The Argus 29 November 1889, p.7.
© Robert Baker, 2012
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Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
One day later, a family notice18 and a funeral notice19 invited the friends of Mrs. Eleanor Simeon to follow the remains of her late and beloved son Arthur to the place of interment, the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew. Unlike his father James, and other siblings who had died in Melbourne at earlier dates, Arthur was not to be buried in the Jewish section of the Melbourne General cemetery. The database of the cemetery records his grave as located in the Church of England section (Location: C/E B 2515). His was not to be a solitary burial. The death of Arthur Simeon may have had consequences for the life of his mother. Her contents of her house, Anchoria, were to be advertised for sale in March 1890 as a consequence of her decision to depart for Europe. The Auction notice20 gives a fascinating insight into the furnishings of upper middle class life in the period. It included: an upright grand piano, a satin upholstered drawing room suite, console mirrors and girandoles, carpets and skins, an inlaid lady’s escritoire, walnut dining furniture and bookcases, and bedroom suites of walnut and huon pine. Also to be sold was an elegant carriage with a fine upstanding bay horse and harness. The Simeon story, after the death of Arthur and the move of Eleanor to Europe, shifts in its penultimate stage, to Brisbane. In that city, Henrietta Simeon, Eleanor’s second daughter, who was married to the financier Herman Levy, was to undergo a trial by media and the law following the collapse of her husband’s business. Perhaps typical of the period, the companies involved had names such as the ‘Royal Loan Office’ and the ‘Monster Cash Distribution Company’. Banks of the period such as the Bank of Australasia, and the English, Scottish and Australian Bank were among the creditors. The charge against Herman Levy was that he had not kept ‘proper Books of Account’ and that these did not explain income and expenditure. While Henrietta Levy and E. H. Simeon were listed as creditors for £3381 19s. and £200 respectively, no evidence in the books could be found as evidence of these loans. While the trial for insolvency against Herman Levy continued into 1896, creditors moved swiftly against his 36 year old wife. In February 1895, in the month when the Royal Loan Office collapsed The Brisbane Courier reported that a meeting of creditors had been called to make calls on the separate estate of Henrietta. By the end of March, all of Henrietta’s assets had been identified and liquidated on behalf of Herman Levy’s creditors and she had been adjudged insolvent. Three members of the Simeon family are buried in Boroondara General Cemetery. Henrietta Levy is buried with her brother Arthur. Cemetery records list her date of death as 25 September 1909. She was aged 50. John Levi’s chronicle of Australian Jewish lives between 1788 and 1850 extends well beyond these dates and unfortunately only records three connections to 18
Family Notices: ‘Simeon’, The Argus, 30 November 1889, p.1.
Funeral Notices: ‘Simeon’, The Argus, 30 November 1889, p.1.
‘Sales by Auction’, The Argus, 1 March 1890, p.2.
© Robert Baker, 2012
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Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
Kew: Jonas Levien (1840-­‐1906), Susan Phillips (1818-­‐88), and Eleanor Haidee Simeon. Apart from noting that she was not buried as a Jew, he records that she died in Kew in 191021. This reference was a starting point for my research into her life. It lead via online searches of contemporary newspaper reports, to the Sands and McDougall Directories, site and cemetery visits, to further reading of other research. Perhaps a starting point might be to simply note the facts of Eleanor Haidee Simeon’s death and burial. The Argus, three days after her death, reported her death at her residence at 52 Davis-­‐street, East Kew. It gave the date of her death as 13 June 1910. The full text is worth inserting as like many later memorials it is worth discussing: DEATHS. SIMEON -­‐ On the 13th June at her residence, 52 Davis-­‐street, East Kew, Eleanor Haidee, relict of the late James Simeon, and mother of Frederick, Michael, and Marcus Simeon; grandmother of Felix, Leonard Aron, and Alma Wardle; in her 88th year, of heart failure. Colonist of 70 years; arrived in Port Phillip 1840, (Privately interred on the 15th, Boroondara, East Kew.) (lnserted by her son, Michael Simeon.)22 Firstly, while it appears to be the only death notice for Eleanor, this may be due to other newspapers not yet being indexed and provided through the National Library of Australia’s Trove website, such as The Age. At this stage, we know from later news reports that Leonora McKail (nee Simeon) and Minnie Aron (nee Simeon) were still living. In the Death Notice there are two references to East Kew. From an analysis of current and past maps, neither Davis-­‐street, nor the Boroondara Cemetery was classified as being part of East Kew. Perhaps in the early years of the century, popular perceptions of locations within the Borough were more fluid. Later press reports more correctly locate Davis-­‐street in Kew. The Death Notice correctly spells Eleanor’s second name. On the register of the Cemetery, it is spelled ‘Haide’ incorrectly. This is presumably an error made by the transcriber at the time of that the Death Certificate was made. There are two memorials on her grave. The shield-­‐shaped headstone on the left reads simply ‘E H Simeon / Died 1910’. That on the right, erected by her son Marcus, which is described above, records her name correctly as ‘Eleanor Haidee’. Descendants are often unreliable about key dates, and even the age of a parent. In later press reports, Eleanor’s age is variably given as 88 and 87. This would suggest that she was possibly born in 1822 or 1823. Interestingly, the database on the Tasmania’s Heritage23 website lists her date of birth as 1824, although it provides a disclaimer that this may be inaccurate. There seems to be general agreement that she was born in London. The statement that she was a colonist of 70 years is ambiguous. Is the inscription referring to her arrival in Australia or to 21
Levi JS 2006, p.693.
Deaths: ‘Simeon’, The Argus, 16 June 1910, p.1.
‘Colonial Tasmanian Family Links database’,
© Robert Baker, 2012
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her arrival in Victoria? Eleanor would have been between the ages of 19–21 at the date of her marriage. If she had married James Simeon in Hobart in 1843, one presumes that she did not arrive in the Port Phillip District until after that date. She would have therefore been a Victorian colonist of 67 years and an Australian resident for probably longer. The Death Notice in The Argus provided Eleanor’s last address, but where her house was, what it was like, how long she had lived there were still unanswered questions. A directory and a map search could only partly answer these. The sections for Kew of the Sands and McDougall Directories are available for public use in the Kew Library. They revealed that 52 Davis-­‐street was situated on the west side before the numbers were reversed between 1914-­‐15. The house was in that section of Davis-­‐street between Wellington and Fitzwilliam-­‐streets. Eleanor Simeon’s house, number 52, was only built in 1909, so she only lived in it for the final two years of her life. The reason for her move to the house is apparent if one looks at the other residents of the street. Thom. J. B. McKail is listed as the owner of 56 Davis-­‐street, ‘Wahgunyuh’ from 1891 until at least 1912 [the entry for 1913 is illegible]. Thomas McKail is presumably the husband of Eleanor’s daughter Leonora. The Sands and McDougall Directories list the entries for the relevant houses in Davis-­‐street between Wellington and Fitzwilliam-­‐streets. 1901–03: [Nos] 44 Wilson; 54 Haynes; 56 McKail; 88 Bollington. 1904–08: [Nos] 44 Wilson; 54 Cole; 56 McKail; 88 Wilson. 1909: [Nos] 44 Wilson; 52 Simeon; 54 Cole; 56 McKail; 88 Wilson. 1910: [Nos] 44 Wilson; 52 Simeon; 54 Cole; 56 McKail & Wookey; 88 Wilson. 1911: [Nos] 44 Wilson; 52 Vacant; 54 Cole; 56 McKail & Wookey; 88 Wilson. If one compares these numbers with a section of the MMBW Map of the Borough of Kew published in 1903, one has a clear sense of the location of the McKail house Wahgunyah at No 56 and the possible location of Eleanor Simeon’s house at number 52. Wahgunyah, a block fronted Victorian weatherboard with a central hall and verandah is still standing. So is Bollington and Wilson’s No 88. The corner house, No 44 seems to be that which is identified on the map of 1903. The months following Eleanor Simeon’s death involved a trial and the division of a family. Newspapers in at least two colonies reported the trial and involved a challenge to two codicils made to Eleanor’s original will of 1907. What was not at issue, at least initially in the will was the value of Eleanor’s estate: £9,785 (realty £7,015 and personalty £2,770). Nor was there a dispute about which of her children had survived her: Frederick Peter, aged 6824, Michael, aged 6425, Marcus 24
If we accept the accuracy of his age in the report of the trial, he would have to be born in 1842, a
year before Eleanor and James’ Hobart marriage. While this is not impossible, other sources give his
birth year as 1844, which is more likely.
Other sources provide a year of birth for Michael Simeon as 1847 rather than the 1846 that the report
here would indicate.
© Robert Baker, 2012
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Kew Historical Society – Jewish history series
Adler, aged 6326 and her daughters Leonora McKail and Minnie Aron27. Two codicils involved changes to a 1901 will which was itself revised in 1907. The later codicils took account of her changing relationship with her son Michael, as well as the deaths of two of her children. The first codicil reduced the share of her second oldest son Michael for unfilial conduct and redistributed the share of Henry Woolf Simeon who had died in 1907. A second codicil of 1910 gave the share of Henrietta Simeon-­‐Levy, after her death in 1909, to a granddaughter. Elizabeth Simeon, the widow of Harry Woolf Simeon, initiated the court case on behalf of her son. Her claim alleged that after 1906 Eleanor was senile, had bodily ailments (chronic nephritis, fatty degeneration of the heart, with resulting affection of the brain), and had been unduly influenced by her daughter Leonora McKail28. Ultimately, after a hearing of six days, Mr. Justice Hood rejected the claims, and Eleanor Simeon’s will, with its codicils, was allowed to progress to probate. A final piece in the story occurred in December 1910. On page 3 of The Argus under the Judicial and Law Notices, the following appeared: NOTICE is hereby given that after the expiration of fourteen days from the publication hereof application will be made to the Supreme Court of the State of Victoria, in its probate jurisdiction that LETTERS of ADMINISTRATION of the estate of JAMES SIMEON late of Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne) in the Colony (now State) of Victoria gentleman deceased intestate left un-­‐administered by Eleanor Haidee Simeon late of 52 Davis-­‐street, Kew, in the said State, widow deceased, to whom letters of administration of the estate of the said James Simeon, deceased, intestate, were granted on the 1st day of October 1874, may be granted to the NATIONAL TRUSTEES, EXECUTORS AND AGENCY COMPANY OF AUSTRALASIA LIMITED, of 113 Queen-­‐street, Melbourne, in the said State, the said company having been duly authorised to make such application by Michael Simeon, the eldest son in Victoria of the said James Simeon, deceased. Dated this second day of December one thousand nine hundred and ten.
HARRY T. McKEAN, A.M.P. Buildings 465 Collins-street, Melbourne, proctor for
the applicant.29
Clearly, James Simeon had not left a will when he died in 1874 and assets remained
in his name rather than in Eleanor’s. It is interesting to postulate the impact of this
Notice on Eleanor’s estate. To what extent were her assets as listed in press reports
mixed-up with those of her dead husband, and was Michael Simeon’s legal action a
challenge to her will of 1907.
If Marcus Adler Simeon were indeed to be 63 at the time of Eleanor’s death, that would place his
birth year as 1847, two years earlier than most other records.
The age of daughters was presumably not mentioned due to social etiquette.
‘Octogenarians Will Disputed by Daughter-In-Law’, The Argus, 20 August 1910, p.17.
Judicial and Law Notices, The Argus, 2 December 1910, p.3.
© Robert Baker, 2012
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