My maternal grandfather was born in Toowoomba, Queensland in 1867. When he moved to New Zealand in 1903 he changed his surname to Leslie, and when he married my grandmother he falsely gave his status as ‘widower’ (and lost six years off his age). I believe there were two reasons he wanted to hide his past.
One was the fact that his father had committed suicide. The other was that he had been the ‘injured’ party in a scandalous divorce.
In 1897-98 his first wife Annie McLean had an affair with John Henry Dunsford, who was a Member of the Legislative Assembly in Queensland. In 1900 there was a divorce case in front of a judge and jury, the marriage was dissolved and Frank was given custody of their five sons, of whom it appears only one was his natural child. According to newspaper reports of the divorce Annie had also had a liaison with Andrew Anderson Dawson, who was rumoured to have fathered her twins. Dawson is famous for having been the Premier of the first Labour Government in the world (in Queensland in 1899). He was also a Minister in the first Federal Labour Government, and an alcoholic.
The report of the divorce indicates that Frank knew all about these other relationships. An Australian cousin (Sylvia McDermott nee Leysley) who researched the divorce, said she couldn’t decide whether he was a wimp or a pimp.
According to his death certificate he came to New Zealand in 1903. His Australian family believe he worked for the Government Printer in Wellington. My mother understood he worked for the “Star” newspaper in Christchurch. Neither organisation has any record of his employment, possibly he worked for both. One of these employers sent him to England in 1907 to learn to operate the new linotype machines. The Australian family have a postcard he sent from Tenerife. One of the two photo’s I have of him shows him working at what I assume is a linotype machine.
He married my grandmother Ethel Nicholls in 1909 in Christchurch.
At this stage two of his sons were also living in Christchurch, but apparently Ethel didn’t know this. She was aware that he had another family and some years after his death she and my mother travelled to Australia to meet them.
My mother Phyllis was born in 1911, and Frank died in Christchurch in 1913 of a haemorrhage of the brain and paralysis of respiration.
“We know now more about his life
Facts that were hidden from his wife.”