An interest in any sort of history is an invitation to be distracted by things we encounter, and I was distracted a few years ago after reading John Hamilton’s biography of Australia’s ‘Gallipoli Sniper’, Billy Sing (published by Pan Macmillan). A Queenslander of English and Chinese descent, Billy Sing was probably Australia’s most famous and successful snipers of the Gallipoli campaign.
As told by Hamilton and others Sing had married Elizabeth Stewart (see picture below) in Scotland in 1917 but the ultimate fate of his war bride was unknown. Some accounts suggest that she travelled back to Australia to be with him whilst other accounts suggest that she never left Scotland.
Not one to be deterred from a mystery, I got distracted and started looking for Mrs Elizabeth Sing. And I reckon I’ve tracked her down.
She didn’t travel to Australia to be with Billy. Elizabeth Sing fell pregnant to another man (whose identity is unknown) in Edinburgh at the same time that her husband was making arrangements for her to sail to Australia to be with him. She gave birth to a daughter in Scotland in September 1919 listing Billy as the father on the hospital records (although this was impossible as he’d left Britain more than a year earlier).
She remained in Scotland and fell pregnant, again. A son was born in May 1923. Although hospital information provided by Elizabeth suggest that Billy was the father, this was not possible as he had been in Queensland since late 1918 and she had remained in Scotland. It is possible that the father of the boy was a Maryborough (Queensland) born merchant seaman of Swedish descent, although I need to check shipping records more throughly to see if he was near Elizabeth around nine months before the son was born. It seems as though she may have lived in the London docks area just before coming to Australia.
In 1925 Elizabeth and her children moved from Scotland to Australia (she travelled under a third surname, neither Sing nor the seaman’s surname) and she lived with the above-mentioned Australian seaman in Sydney. Still married to Billy, she assumed the seaman’s surname (as did the children) and they lived as if they were married.
Both of Elizabeth’s children married and themselves had children, and descendants live in Wollongong, Sydney, and further afield. The descendants that I’ve managed to track down and engage are, sadly, not interested in the connection with Billy Sing nor Elizabeth’s Sing’s Scottish background.
Elizabeth and her de facto husband died in New South Wales during the 1970s and Elizabeth’s son and daughter died within the last decade or so. Billy Sing himself died in Brisbane in 1943.
It seems that the mystery of Mrs Sing is close to being solved.