Ida Clare Marie Johnston

family tree

The second daughter and the sixth living child, Ida was born at Jerilderie in November 1899. She attended Jerilderie and Ryde Primary Schools then Petersham and Fort Street High Schools, the only one of her family to stay at school and get the Leaving Certificate. She was always a nervous person and was inclined to worry unnecessarily. She had learnt to play the piano but avoided playing in public. She met Charles Sykes Johnston whilst attending the Presbyterian Church at Kogarah, and following a determined courtship they were married in 1923. Later Charles acquired a motorcar, the first such vehicle to be owned in the family.

They spent unsuccessful years farming in Rankins Springs, Shellharbour and Camden, at times living with Vi and Bill at Rankins Springs, or Viv and Clytie at Erigolia, for a while working for Beau at the wheat stack and later the silos. Finally Ida and Charlie left the country and came to Sydney because they did not want Margaret to have to board to attend William Street High School. The following year David would also have to start High school.

After the death of Annie, the house at Ramsgate was left to the family and it was agreed that Ida and Charlie could buy it by paying rent which would be divided among the brothers and sisters. As he did not need the money, Vern gave them his share. The camphor laurel trees which had long outgrown the front garden were cut down and the hedge at the back was also removed. The piano was still in the house and Ida liked to play music such as "Barcarolle", "Rustle of Spring" and “La Golondrina” when she was alone. Annie left Ida her fine tea-set that Mary had brought from Ireland. Ida gave a cup and saucer set to Vi, Rita and Dorrie. Dorrie was particularly keen to have a piece of this Beleek pottery. Betty returned the pieces to Margaret after Dorries death.

Charlie worked on the railway to Cronulla, and then after a lot of persuasion from Ida, he applied for a job at Naval dockyard, Garden Island. He was worried by the circumstances of his discharge from the navy as he had left Darwin without permission after WWI and thought he was classed as a deserter. He was employed as a painter and docker and worked a lot of overtime which helped them make up for the lost years.

During the second war a Japanese midget submarine sank a Sydney ferry next to a ship he was working on. He was well below deck at the time of the explosion. He was left in complete darkness and had to sit and wait until the lights came on again. Later when he was unable to manoeuvre his broad shoulders through the small spaces, causing him to panic, he was put in charge of the lockers, seeing that things did not get stolen. Although he had some left wing ideas at the time, he often did not agree with what the unions were doing and the many strikes, particularly after the war, but he did not speak up because of implied threats.

Charlie enclosed the back veranda, put a wooden floor over the cement and added a room at the back of KY to be laundry and bathroom instead of the lean-to. He always had a good vegetable garden. Ida was still a "highly strung" nervous person who did not sleep well and did not cope calmly with family problems. From the beginning KY had always been "open house" and this worried Ida. She found she was now bothered by neighbours dropping in and was unable to tell them she would prefer they didn't. This had not been a problem at Rankins Springs and she sometimes said she had enjoyed living in the country in spite of the problems. She often said that her school days were the best years of her life.

When Rita and Dorothy needed help, they did not hesitate to offer aid. At the time, just after the second war, there were ten people using the pan toilet and the bathroom/laundry, boiling up the copper to do the washing and for weekly baths and doing hand washing in cement tubs with wooden lids. Charlie mainly did the washing for Ida and much of the shopping.

In her later years Ida developed many irrational fears.

About 1960 they sold KY and bought a more modern house at Kingsgrove, where Charlie did his best to care for Ida who had many health problems, including some loss of memory. They ended their days in the same nursing home at Bexley, the only ones of the family who were together in their final years. Charlie died of cancer and heart trouble, and some months later Ida got gangrene in her right toe. The leg was amputated at the knee, and she was very distressed that this was necessary. She died ten days later on the eve of her eightieth birthday.



Margaret was a bit of a rebel and felt less attractive than her five girl cousins and took it seriously when her father called her "plain Jane". She also felt less intelligent than all her cousins, and was delighted to hear later that Uncle Beau had said she would grow up to be as good as any of them. She did part of her schooling at Erigolia and Rankins Springs and part by correspondence from Blackfriars with her mother as a patient teacher. After her parents moved to Sydney she went to William Street Junior High School. She was an avid reader, reading five or six books a week. She often got up at four thirty when her father did, to do her homework. Charlie made tea and toast for Margaret and Ida, who stayed in bed. Margaret joined the WAAAF in 1942, and served for three years, the only female from the Smythe clan to join up. Two years later she met Leo Clarke who was in the First Armoured Regiment: they married six months later. At the wedding, her Auntie Vi rearranged the place cards and entertained the guests by playing "The Robins' Return" on the piano as Ida was too shy. Margaret, Leo and nine months later their baby Carol, lived at KY while waiting for a house. Margaret worked in a factory for short periods. Stephen was born in 1952 but Margaret and Leo parted two years later. After the divorce Margaret went to work in the Commonwealth Public Service in the Repatriation Department (now Veteran’s Affairs) as a clerk and stayed there until she left on medical grounds twenty-one years later. In 1960, married women were ineligible for appointment for permanent positions as Clerks. Margaret travelled extensively both before and after her retirement.


David’s early schooling was similar to Margaret’s. On coming to Sydney, he was educated at Canterbury Boy’s High School, and after leaving school worked for the Queensland Insurance Company before enlisting in the RAAF in 1943. After aircrew training at Maryborough and Sale, he was posted to 24 Liberator Squadron as a wireless operator/ air gunner, and saw war service in New Guinea (Nadzab), Darwin (Fenton), Morotai, Borneo (Balikpapan) and Philippines (Palawan). On demobilisation he joined the Public Service as a clerk for the Department of the Navy. He did not marry, but lived with his parents at Ramsgate, then Kingsgrove before moving to his own unit at Carlton, where he now lives. His recreations include tennis, golf and overseas travel. His other interests include classical music and reading, especially war history. He was always available for his parents in their latter years regularly visiting them in the nursing home, taking his father shopping and driving them to visit Margaret, Anne (Mary) and Charlie and their families.


Charlie junior went to the Park School, Ramsgate then Hurlstone Agricultural High School. He worked briefly for the State Department of Agriculture, followed by National Service with the RAAF. He later commenced studying and became a Certified Practicing Accountant working in various Government Departments and finally as an auditor with the State Auditor General's Office. He studied law and was admitted as a barrister in the Supreme Court of NSW, but chose not to practice. Charlie married Leone Mary Burgess, of Rockdale and had three children, Anne, Phillip and Martin. He was always keen on classical music especially opera, and had taken singing lessons as a young man, and now has a large collection of compact discs. Upon retirement Charlie and Leone bought a large motor home and continue to tour Australia and attend race meetings Australia wide. When not travelling, they live at Port Macquarie.

Anne Mary

Anne Mary, always known as Mary, the youngest of Annie's granddaughters, the only grandchild she never saw, had Chorea twice as a child. At the age of three as well as Chorea she had Rheumatic Fever which nearly killed her. She was in the Children's Hospital for a long time and then at the Burnside Convalescent Home at Parramatta. She started school at The Park, then went to Kogarah Domestic Science School. She was timid and when she went to the pictures she hid her face in the frightening parts. She went to business college and worked for NSW Workers' Compensation before her marriage to Gordon Lindsay. They had four children, Tracy, Scot, Craig and Fiona, who was stillborn. While attending to duties at home and minding the children, she did work for the family business to help Gordon. She and Gordon parted and divorced when the children were adults. She did some long overseas tours with Margaret. On one trip Craig accompanied them on three legs and acted as chauffer in Scotland, where they visited some parts of their ancestors homeland. She went to live at Mittagong, Austinmer and then finally settled at Sutherland. She chose to be known by her real first name, Anne.


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