Lily May Ponting was the youngest sister of our great grandmother, Florence Belshaw. She was a bit of a conundrum in our family, and much of her life is a mystery. She apparently committed suicide and I recently located some additional facts, revealing more behind the sad incident. Here is a some of Lily’s story.
She was born Lily May on 23 December 1893 at Upper Temora, a small town, north-east of the Riverina NSW. Lily was the youngest of six children of hotelkeeper Henry Ponting and Louisa Richey. Her siblings were Florence Amelia born 1886, Harry Francis 1888, Alice Maude 1890 and Phoebe Louisa 1892. The eldest child, a daughter, died in 1886.
At the time of Lily’s birth, her Mother was 29 years old, while her Father was more than twice that age, at 62. She was baptised on 8 May 1894 at Temora, and they probably lived at the hotel which was called the Bristol Arms. Just a few years after Lily’s birth, Louisa left Temora and took her children and moved to Sydney. Lily was only about 4 years old at the time. Louisa had either met Alfred Petty in Temora or moved to Sydney, as she was pregnant with his first child by December 1898. Louisa and Alfred had four sons born during six years. Alfred Arthur born 1899, Abraham ‘Abe’ Charles 1901, Henry George ‘Syd’ 1903 and Ernest William 1905. When Henry Ponting died on 3 April 1903 at Temora, Louisa and Alfred were free to marry, which they did, six months later, on 30 October 1903 in Sydney.
Tragedy struck the family again when Harry Francis, the only Ponting boy, died 8 June 1908 just before his 20th birthday, his Mother and sisters were heartbroken. Harry was working as a labourer in Mudgee and was so unwell he was taken to District Hospital Mudgee. He died four days later as a result of enteric fever and also perforation of ulcer of the intestine. (Enteric fever is also known as typhoid and the cause is often salmonella spread by eating or contaminated food or drinking water.)
Louisa and Alfred were not together for long, as she died on 18 July 1908 in Sydney Hospital. The cause of death was malignant disease of the gall bladder. She was only 44. At the time, Lily was only 15 whilst her younger Petty half-brothers were aged between 3 and 9 years old. Although Lily’s father was Henry Ponting she was only a child when her Mother took her to Sydney. It is not known if Lily saw her father again and probably had few memories of him. Alf Petty would have been her main father-figure and she often went by the name Lily or Lilian Petty.
By this time, my Grandmother, Flo had married Robert Belshaw in Sydney on 27 October 1906 and had two children of her own, Doris and Edna, when Louisa died. Lily’s other sisters also married. Phoebe married John William Nolen in 1912, while Maud married John Joseph Moore in 1913.
|Lily May Ponting 1893-1946|
Courtesy State Records
As a young woman, Lily's photograph, taken in her 20s, reveals how beautiful she was. When Lily was 21 years old, she married chemist, Alfred Hynard on 18 September 1915 in Christ Church, North Sydney. Alfred was 27 at the time and although World War 1 had started the year before, he had not, and did not, enlist, although his younger brother, Percy Joseph did. Alfred appeared to have financial difficulties and there were several appearances for bankruptcy, in 1916 and 1918. In 1916 he was living at 156 Alfred-street, North Sydney and was listed in the paper under Voluntary Sequestrations.
The marriage did not last long and on 18 November 1920, it was dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW. Alfred was the petitioner and he applied for a dissolution of his marriage with Lily May Hynard (formerly Petty), on the ground of her misconduct with Richard Holden, or Saber, who was joined as co-respondent. There are also a number of references to Alfred in the newspapers being tried at various courts under the Gaming and Betting Act and it is possible that he had a gambling problem.
On 9 July 1925, Lily married again. Her second husband was Harold Beverstock Williams, the son of George Henry and Marion Frances Williams, on 9 July 1925 at St Barnabas Church of England, Sydney. This marriage only lasted a couple of years when Harold petitioned Lily for divorce on the grounds of desertion for three years. This was advertised in the Sydney Mail 25 March 1931. Unusually the marriage was not dissolved by decree of the Supreme Court of NSW, until 22 August 1941, no. 1162/30.
Lily was living at 137 Victoria Road, Darlinghurst, in 1925 and her occupation was recorded as a photographer. Phoebe Nolen, died in Prince Alfred Hospital from heart disease on 8 December 1936 aged 42 years, leaving her daughters Gladys and Dulcie orphans. There was only twelve months between sisters, Lily and Phoebe.
|Petty brothers, from left, Abe Syd and Ern.|
World War 2 commenced in 1939 and Lily’s half-brothers enlisted and served their country. Henry known as “Syd” had joined the Navy as a young man. He enlisted in WW2 in June 1940 and was in the A.I.F. 2/30 Bn, and his rank was Sergeant. Syd was reporting missing in Malaya and died from an illness in November 1943 in what is now known as Thailand aged 40. According to the newspapers, his wife did not find out until 1945, two years later that he had died. He is buried at Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery. Abe began his military service in the AIF in 1940. He died on 23 August 1944 aged 43 from dysentery as a Prisoner of War (POW) and was buried in Ambon War Cemetery in Indonesia. Her nephew, Artie Belshaw was also a casualty. He died 21 April 1944 when his Catalina crashed near Borneo, he had only just turned 21. More about this here.
At some stage Lily began a relationship with Tom Baldwin, a poulterer, and “they lived together as man and wife.” By 1946 they were living at Camperdown.
| The Sun 19 June 1946|
On Anzac Day in 1946, Lily and Tom attended the march. Prior to “the march she was worried over her brother, who died after being a POW for 18 months. She had said on a number of occasions that she could hear her brother calling to her.”
As the 8th Division marched, Lily had a "giddy" turn and Tom took her home. At the time they were living at 124 Pyrmont Bridge Road, Camperdown. Sometime after arriving home, she committed suicide by taking poison, cyanide which she administered herself. Tom found her dead, the following morning. Due to the nature of her death and suspicious circumstances, an inquest was held on 27 April Mr R M Stewart SM, the City Coroner.
Her sister Maud, by this time was married to Jack Hanlon, “said they lost two brothers in the war. Her sister was more attached to the one who died In Malaya, and worried over it.” Additional evidence given at the inquest stated that Lily was employed as a cleaner at Camperdown Hospital. Here she “had access to poisons which were not locked away. The Coroner returned a finding of suicide.”
Her funeral was held in the Private Chapel at 59 Parramatta Road, Annandale on the afternoon of 27 April, after the inquest. She was buried in the Church of England Cemetery at Rookwood. Much of Lily's life is mystery, hopefully this story reveals more about her story and her poignant end.
SUICIDE HEARD BROTHER CALLING (1946, June 19). The Sun p. 3
IN DIVORCE. (1931, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 7
IN DIVORCE. (1920, March 31). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 8
IN BANKRUPTCY. (1918, August 8). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 4
(1916, December 16). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 9
Nichols family tree
Birth, death & marriages certificates
Family Notices (1946, April 27). The Sydney Morning Herald p. 29