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Wednesday 22 July 2015

John Stapleton Weatherburn (1883 -1915) - part 1

From Margaret Rogers of Wagga Wagga, Australia:

I have been researching when my ancestors came to Australia and a bit about what kind of background they came from. As 2015 is the centenary of Australia’s involvement I have also been looking at the role some of my family played in World War I. I knew my father’s uncle had died at Gallipoli but in looking at my mother’s family I came across the fact that her great uncle had also died there.

Berwick War Memorial
At first I assumed it would have been as a member of the British army but when I looked closely at the photo of the Berwick memorial at St Mary's, Berwick, I noticed that it said AIF so I began to research to find out how that had happened.

John Stapleton Weatherburn was the sixth and youngest child of Alexander Weatherburn (born 1844 in Berwick) and Elizabeth Morrallee. He was born in 1883 in Berwick-upon-Tweed and is shown in the 1891 census living at 6 Castlegate, Berwick-upon-Tweed with his family except for his oldest brother, William, who was a policeman in Blyth in 1891 and who later emigrated to the USA.

He was the youngest brother of Margaret Morrallee Burns (nee Weatherburn) shown in the 1891 Census as a 21 year old tailor’s machinist. She is my great grandmother.

After attending Corporation Academy, in Berwick (a school which provided free education for the children of the Freemen of Berwick Guild) he enlisted in the regular British Army on 14 February 1898. His older brother, Alexander, had enlisted in 1893 aged 15 years and served until 1911, taking part in the Boer War.

On his attestation (enlistment) papers John Stapleton Weatherburn was listed as a shop boy aged 14 years 9 months, and was 5'3½'' (1.61m) tall.

He served in the Royal Artillery as a gunner and bombardier in the Royal Field Artillery Howitzer Brigades 151, 56 and 50 for 12 years. In the 1901 census he is shown as an enlisted soldier boy (aged 17) at Shoeburyness Barracks in South East Essex. During this time he had a record of mild misconduct and redemption as shown on his service record. His service record does not show service in the Boer War in South Africa.  By the time he signed out in 1910 he had grown to 5' 7'' (1.7m) and he signed on to the Army reserve and received a pension as shown in UK Chelsea Pensioners Service Records 1760-1913.

Once he left the army John Stapleton Weatherburn returned to the Scottish Borders, was admitted as a Freeman of Berwick Guild on 3 October 1911 as "4th son of Alexander, deceased", and lived at Greenlaw, north east of Coldstream in Scotland. He appears on the 1911 Scottish Census.

Rebecca Weatherburn (seated) and Margaret Morrallee Weatherburn
At this time his sister, Rebecca, was married and living in Coldstream as was his maternal grandmother. His mother and brother, Henry, had moved to Consett, near Durham.

His older sister, Margaret Morrallee Burns and her children, Elizabeth (Morley), Rae, Iris, Bill and Alex, as well as her stepdaughter, Betty, had emigrated to join her husband, John Rea Burns, in Australia in 1911. They had been married in in July 1899 (at the Scotchgate Baptist Chapel in Castlegate, Berwick.

John Stapleton Weatherburn did not remain in Greenlaw long, as on 16 July 1912 he embarked on the White Star Line steamer, Waimana, from Liverpool for Sydney. He described himself as a farmer from Scotland on the passenger list.

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