I was immediately intrigued by the surname in the return address for this Civil and Mechanical Engineer, from Araluen, N.S.W., in spite of the poor quality of the cover. It was addressed to the Manager, Commercial Bank of Tasmania, Hobart, Tas and the pair of the blue ‘Two Pence’ New South Wales stamps were cancelled with a faint ARALUEN/ JY 28/ 1904/ N.S.W postmark with the barred numeral of ‘424′ of Araluen. The reverse was not seen. (Figure 1).

I learnt from The Mercury (Hobart) 26 February 1926, p. 3 that he was having a problem with his surname, for he had placed a PUBLIC NOTICE in that newspaper with the following: “Reports being current that I am a German. I NOTIFY THE PUBLIC generally that I have produced my birth certificate and other credentials to the Defence Department, and have satisfied the Department that I am British-born of British parents. If necessary, I could trace my family back to having resided in the Midland Counties of England for about 3 centuries. Should I find any person, after publication of this notice, continuing to spread this damaging report about me, I will take proceedings. My wife, whose maiden name was McNair, was born in Edinburgh of Scotch (sic) and Irish parents, and her family is of Scotch and Irish descent. Montague Thomas Nelmes Bluck, KamuntingHouseHigh-street, Sandy Bay (Tasmania).”

I was aware from previous research on other papers that public feelings ran high against the German migrants in the mainland States during WWI, but I did not realize that this bias also applied to the Island State of Tasmania. I thought that the above Public Notice would have allayed these concerns about Bluck, but I was wrong in that surmise. As late in the war as 25 March 1918 on p.4 in The Mercury (Hobart) there was a letter ‘To the Editor’ which occupied more than twice the previous article’s column size in a reply to “Vigilant’s letter” in Saturday’s issue of the newspaper, Mr. Bluck gave further information about his British heritage.

I will summarize his new information: He was born in Gloucestshire; was educated at Cheltenham College; he always lived in British countries except when he went to Siam for a Hobart company; their son had been at the front with the Australian Imperial Forces. for the past 4 years, and was still there; all his eligible male relatives were serving in the British forces; he and his wife have supported all patriotic objects in Hobart; his wife had raised money for these objects in Sydney and Hobart; our car has always been at the disposal of the Red Cross for returned soldiers’ outings; he had satisfied the military authorities some two years ago of our British nationality; He had offered his services for munition making and ship building, and his offer to help was still open. In addition, the editor of the newspaper added information as to the proven veracity of M.T. Nelmes Bluck’s statements.

Much more information was provided by Ruth Babar about Mr. Bluck, a “very, very distant cousin”. She responded to my email, when I asked 2 questions of her. “His father was Thomas Bluck a country farmer, who married Louisa Nelmes. This is obviously where the ‘Nelmes’ (of his name) originates. Thomas was 55 years old when he married Louisa who was a mere 22 years old. The marriage was very short lived as Thomas died in March 1868 and Montague was born at the end of 1868. Montague was single and living in Cheshire, England as a civil engineer in 1891. She believed he emigrated to Australia in 1892. He departed from London, as a single man aged 27, with the destination of Melbourne. He married Susan Mary McNair, the second daughter of Robert McNair of Glasgow in 1893, at St. Stephens Church, Sydney. They had 2 children, Eric Nelmes Bluck born in New Zealand in 1896 and Kathleen S. Nelmes Bluck, whose birthdate was unknown. She wrote music and poems.” Ruth Babar had traced the family history back to the mid 1500s in rural Worcestershire”.

The research of Montague Thomas Nelmes Bluck as an engineer, other than mentioned above, has been unproductive and the same applies to his living at Araluen, New South Wales in July 1904, as seen on the cover. The Sydney Morning Herald, 3 December 1912, p. 11, added information about Bluck’s one period that he was living in a non-British country, namely Thailand (previously known as Siam). The article which was entitled TONGKAH HARBOUR TIN DREDGING COMPANY, spoke of the company’s profit for the past 12 months. “The general manager Mr. M.T. Nelmes Bluck…sees no reason to alter his previously expressed opinion as to the value of the concession” and he went on to say that it was his intention of retiring from his position in July 1913. At another site I found that this company was the brainchild of Captain Edward T. Miles of Australia, and in 1906 he founded the company which was incorporated in Tasmania, when he put seven dredges into mining operations in the Phuket area of Thailand. Because of the magnitude of the company, I suspect that Bluck’s engineering skills ensured that he had been chosen as manager of the mining company, whilst he was living in Tasmania.

Yet another website of the Power House Museum in Sydney attested to Bluck’s engineering skills. In 1888, the Australian aviation pioneer, Lawrence Hargrave commenced working on his own engine models for flying machines. One of these four cylinder models was reported in 1900 as being of faulty design, and the consultant engineer, M.T. Nelmes Bluck had identified four serious faults.

The two children of the Nelme Bluck’s have been further identified, and the Blucks were proud of their son, Eric Nelmes Bluck (who was incorrectly identified as Eric ‘Holmes’ Bluck in the Nominal Roll of the Australian Imperial Forces in World War 1). His data were given as follows: Regimental No. 6206; Rank: Sapper; Age 19; Trade or Calling: Engineer; Married or Single: Single; Address at Date of Enrollment: Kamunting House, Sandy Bay, Tasmania; Next of Kin: Montague Thomas Bluck, father, Kamunting House, Sandy Bay, Tasmania; Religion : C. of E.; Date of Joining: 30.12.15. He was identified as one of the 8th Field Company Engineers – 3rd to 5th Reinforcements.

Their daughter Kathleen S. Nelmes-Bluck was responsible for the words and music of the song “The Flag of Liberty (The Allies Flag), which was published in July 1916 by the W.H. Paling & Co. Ltd., Sydney (Figure 2).

I am still researching when and where Montague Thomas Nelmes Bluck died, and have consulted with the Braidwood Historical Society (the district includes Araluen, New South Wales). A map of the area in South-East N.S.W. with Araluen highlighted in pink is shown in Figure 3.

After multiple attempts to confirm that Montague Thomas Nelme Bluck had an association with Araluen N.S.W. in the first decade of the 1900s, confirmation was found in The Sydney Morning Herald of 6 February 1902 on p. 3.  The item was a Law Report related to a work-related injury suffered by John Headman at the Araluen Central Gold Dredging Co. whilst working on a dredging machine.  The manager of the Company, a Mr. Bluck started the engine without any warning.  The workman suffered injuries and was sueing for worker’s compensation.  In the following description of the event, the manager was identified as Montague T. N. Bluck.   

This paper could never have been written without the fine assistance of Ruth Babar, a distant cousin of M.T. Nelmes Bluck.

Categories: Family History, Science