G4 2 Lucy May Watters

This article is about Lucy May Sullivan, Timothy's grandaughter through his first son John, who married Albert Watters in 1902. Lucy only lived into her early fifties in a life that was bitter - sweet.

G4     TS/JS/ LUCY MAY WATTERS (nee SULLIVAN) (1877 - 1932)

Lucy May Sullivan,was born in Sandhurst (Bendigo) in 1877, the second child to John Sullivan and wife Mary (nee Phillipps). Again, little is known of her childhood, and she would have been 13 when her father died in 1890

Lucy also appears on the members’ roll of the Dunbulbalane Wesleyan Methodist church in 1893 when she would have been about 16.

1900LucyWattersIn 1902 aged 25 she married Albert Arthur Watters aged 31 (V413), and they settled at his farm at Drumanure. Albert was born in 1871 to parents Robert and Hannah Jane (nee Wilson) (V23707). The extensive and extended Watters family farmed at Drumanure between Dunbulbalane and Marungi.

There is a family reference that Albert and Lucy travelled to South Australia for their honeymoon where they caught up with their Sullivan relatives.

Lucy Watters (nee Sullivan) circa 1903.
Photo courtesy Mrs C. Griffin


In 1903 son John Vincent Waters was born followed 10 years later by daughter Alice Kathleen Watters in 1913 (V24759) when Lucy would have been 36.

 Around 1913 the Watters family moved from the farm at Drumanure to Shepparton. Lucy's niece Ann (father Arthur Herbert) wrote:

"Dad’s eldest sister Aunt Lucy lived in Shepparton with her husband Uncle Albert and two teenage children. They were people of some importance as Uncle Albert was the mayor of Shepparton and Aunt Lucy had a degree in music, was quite elelgant and had all kinds of lovely furnishings and valuable interior décor. We children were always  warned not to touch, not to jump about and of course the motto of those days “Children are seen but not heard”. We mostly managed to visit without undue worry under the strict eyes of Mum and Dad. But I was a curious child and for sometime wondered how a sailing ship could get into a bottle – in full glory with sails erected of course. Yes you’ve guessed it! I did investigate and I did drop it with a great crash. Oh Dear! Mum was cross and Dad was mortified; the Sullivans had a reputation for having such good and obedient children who could be taken any where without any trouble. I was put into a room to sob my heart out, with the threat of a good spanking when we arrived home – which was well deserved.

I must add Uncle Albert and Aunt Lucy were very decent about the incident and said I could save my pennies to help replace it. I don’t remember if that ever happened, because about this time Vincent, their son, bought a motor car – a Dodge. There was so much excitement, not only in the Sullivan clan but throughout the whole district as it was one of the first to be owned especially be a young man not yet 20 years of age."

The Watters also had an adopted daughter, Antoinette Elsie Williamson born in 1897, the third of five children, all born in Melbourne, to Gustavus Alfred Williamson and Maude Adelaide (nee Smith).  Antoinette, or Nita as she became known, would have been about 5 years older than John Vincent. It is unclear whether she was adopted before or after John Vincent’s birth, or indeed whether Albert had adopted her before or after his marriage to Lucy. Nor is it clear what the connection was between the Watters and the Williamsons and the reasons for Nita’s adoption. Nita, Vincent and Kathleen all attended the Drumanure school, and there is evidence that Nita was at the school around 1908.

Nita (Antoinette Elsie Williamson) married George Burkitt in 1921, and the electoral roll shows them living together at Katandra in 1924, where George was a farmer. George Burkitt was born in 1889 in Dunbulbalane, and the extended Burkitt clan farmed at Drumanure. They also attended the Drumanure school. The electoral rolls show George labouring with the Burkitt family at Drumanure in 1914 and 1919.

By mid 1923 the marriage between Lucy 46 and Albert 52 was in difficulties, as reported by husband Albert, although he gives no reason for this. In February 1924 a classic triangle commenced when twenty year old William Raymond Willis, recently appointed in charge of the local State school, came to board with the Watters. Willis was the same age as John Vincent, who appears to have been still living at Drumanure and farming with his father. Lucy aged 47 developed a pattern of increasing frequency of being alone with Willis in his room. Whispers started, principally by the adopted daughter the then Mrs Burkitt, and Albert eventually put his foot down, but was ignored by the wilful Lucy. During the Christmas holidays in 1924 Albert terminated the boarding arrangement, whereupon Lucy claimed she no longer felt welcome and said she would leave. In January she left Drumanure for a holiday in Melbourne, and as she had money from her mother’s estate (₤500) Albert agreed to let her go, which she did, accompanied by daughter Kathleen (who would have been about 11 at the time).

During this time Lucy’s health started to deteriorate and on several occasions she was ill enough to require nursing care. Lucy and Kathleen stayed with relatives and family friends, and in March 1925 after another bout of nursing Albert and son Vincent tracked mother and daughter down, with daughter Kathleen going home but mother Lucy refusing. The Watters made several subsequent visits to Melbourne trying to persuade Lucy to return, but she refused and insisted on continuing her lengthy “holiday” and there was no further contact for about a year.

In March 1926 Albert received information sufficient for him to employ a private detective to try and track Lucy down. On the trail they found that Lucy, masquerading as William Raymond Willis’ aunt, had been travelling with him around central west Victoria. They finally caught up with her and made a final unsuccessful attempt at persuading her to return home.  Albert subsequently wrote to Lucy that he would initiate proceedings for divorce on the grounds of desertion after the appropriate elapsed time, (as he believed he had insufficient evidence to prove adultery.)

In March 1928 a copy of the Petition for Divorce and associated legal paperwork was served on Lucy by George Burkitt, Nita’s husband. Lucy at the time was living with Willis in a house adjoining the State School at Dooen North near Horsham. Lucy chose not to appear or be represented before the court in response to the petition and the Decree Nisi was granted on the grounds of desertion in June 1928, and became Absolute in January 1929.

On  29/09/1928 shortly after the Decree Nisi in June 1928 Albert Watters at age 57 married an Emily Evangeline Thorn, (V9596) born in Caniambo (south east of Shepparton) in 1888 (V1137) who was 17 years younger. The marriage was in the Wesley Methodist church in Lonsdale St Melbourne. Technically the marriage was bigamous as the Decree Absolute had not been granted and the Decree Nisi explicitly stated that remarriage before the Decree Absolute would be regarded as bigamous. The Watters retired to Shepparton where “Eve” aged 43 gave birth to a son Lancelot Thorn Watters on 15/08/1931.

The Watters celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in 1953. Albert Arthur Watters died aged 83 in 1955 (V2744). Eveline Watters died in 1975 (V25066).

On 23/02/1929, a little over a month after the Deceree Absolute, Lucy May Sullivan (divorced) aged 52 married bachelor William Raymond Willis (V1734) in Melbourne at the Registry of Marriages. Lucy’s address was 876 Swanston St Carlton with William residing at 7 Vicars St Glenferrie. William was a teacher, then 26, born in 1903 at Warragul with parents George and Mary Ann (nee McCormick) (V21995). The newlyweds moved to Bendigo where William was teaching, living with his mother in Spring Gully Rd, Bendigo.

Lucy May subsequently died in Bendigo on 22/08/1932 at age 55. (V8437). She appears to have lied about her age, claiming to be 49 when married, and hence dying at "52". Cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis, inanition (exhaustion, as from lack of nourishment or vitality) and heart failure, and she had been unwell for “at least 10 years”. Lucy May was buried in the Bendigo Cemetery on 23/08/1932 in Section MON N4 Grave 29242.

William Raymond Willis aged 31 married again in 1934 to a Mary Whitham aged about 33 who had been a teacher at Girton School, Sandhurst, possibly where William may have taught. Around this time William’s mother Mary probably moved to Melbourne where she eventually died in Richmond in 1938. William and Mary remained in Bendigo until 1937 when they moved to Brunswick West in Melbourne, and subsequently to Brighton where wife Mary Willis died aged 51 in 1952. William Raymond Willis remained in his profession of teacher and lived alone as a widower, eventually dying aged 74 in Fitzroy in 1978.