PATFIELD: Alma… Chapter 3

The "Patfield" section of this site will only have a few chapters in this early stage of preparation. This is in memory of my mother, Alma Maud STRONG (née PATFIELD). It is not intended to be a full account of the PATFIELDs, since this is covered by other publications. My narrow focus is on our part of this family. Please read in sequence by following the links at the bottom of each page or use the "Quick Nav" at top right. If you wish to select individual chapters, please click on the top left link to the "Sitemap" page. Note that it is intended that the chapters develop the story of our family and appendices will contain supporting data. The section is integrated with the Photo Gallery: “Alma PATFIELD… her father's & mother's lines.” This gallery illustrates Alma's early German heritage, her grandparents, parents & siblings, and her own life. Note the styles: links to individual images: …#2 ; citation of sources: …ix)

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This chapter describes my mother Alma Maud STRONG.

Image of Alma STRONG (née PATFIELD) holding Mary Cann TUCKER of Brisbane Grove Paterson Alma STRONG (née PATFIELD) holding Mary Cann TUCKER of Brisbane Grove Paterson in about Jan 1918 when Alma was aged 16. Mary was the daughter of Alma's aunt Victoria TUCKER (née PATFIELD).

Alma Maud STRONG (née PATFIELD).

Early Life.

Alma Maud was born on 26 Mar 1901 in Paterson to Alice Maud PATFIELD …i), ii) in a 2 storey house at edge of the Paterson River near the bridge from Paterson …i). This could only have been “Sussex House” …iii), v),photo …#44 & …#45. Her doctor was Dr Frank Albert BENNETT …ii), …iv) from Morpeth, and “Sussex House” may have been a hospital at that time. Alice Maud was described living at Gresford …ii) in the upper Paterson valley. Paterson would have given more assured access for the doctor from Morpeth at a time when Gresford roads were more like bridle tracks. Dr Bennett probably drove his car to Paterson for the occasion, since shortly after, he was reported driving the first car through Dungog in June 1901! …vi) The other witness to the birth was Alice Maud’s mother-in-law Sarah PATFIELD ii) who has been described as a midwife …vii).

The next significant event in my mother's life which she described, was living at Lostock …#46 from 1911 on Horn's farm ("East View") and providing lodging for the local Lostock Public School teacher …i) who may have been either Thomas LYNCH or Thomas SCOTT …viii). Laura Jane WILSON attended this school from 1906-1916 and remembers Alma and her sister Lydia as pupils at the school …viii). View …#36 which shows the road down the hill from "East View" towards the school; and also …#47, which shows the school in about 1913, with the faces of the students indistinct, with their shoes and best clothes. I can only guess that three PATFIELD children (Alma, Lydia & Sam with an unrelated girl) are standing on the immediate right of the school gate, with Alma the tallest …xvii).

Alma said she obtained her qualifying certificate and became a pupil teacher …i). Chapter 2 outlined the poor circumstances of the PATFIELD home at Lostock. It is a great paradox that Alma said that she obtained her qualifying certificate and became a pupil teacher… all in a one teacher bush school! The Department of Education and Training (DET) states:

The Qualifying Certificate examination was first held in 1911, conducted by Department of Education and externally set and marked. The examination was designed to mark the completion of the primary school course, to select pupils best fitted for further education in High Schools and super-primary schools and to allocate bursaries.
Until 1905 most teachers in government schools were trained on the job as pupil-teachers. Most pupil-teachers began their four-year course between the ages of 13 and 16; during school hours they taught a class full-time, and for an hour or so each day, out of school hours, they were instructed in teaching method and content by the head teacher. Preference for entrance to the training schools was given to pupil-teachers who had completed their course, but many graduating pupil-teachers immediately became teachers or assistant teachers. …ix)

I never asked my mother much about her life, but when I was young and learning the piano and pipe organ, I was really impressed by the virtuosic sheet music which had the name Alma PATFIELD on the front …x). One more paradox… I never saw my mother playing the piano!

After Alma's mother died on 6 June 1916 …xix), 15 year old Alma went to her Aunt Victoria TUCKER (née PATFIELD)’s …#50 farm at Brisbane Grove …#48 with domestic duties …i). The underlying theme which has emerged in this study has been the social network amongst relations which supported those in hard times. All this was before the various governments extended Social Security schemes! Have a look at the well dressed photos of Alma and her sister Lydia at Brisbane Grove, considering the poor circumstances they experienced at Lostock! …#49 and …#51 Perhaps Alma made these clothes, since she told me that she taught dressmaking …i).

Alma became active in the local church. She was confirmed on 5 Nov 1916 in St Paul’s Paterson, by the Bishop of Newcastle, with A.C. Hirst, Rector …x).

Alma also told me she taught piano …i) and was reported performing on the piano in public at a 1918 Christmas celebration for Paterson Public School, when the function opened with a pianoforte solo given by Miss Alma Patfield. The same report mentioned that Alma's cousin Elsie PATFIELD (ALCM) played the music for the dance at the end of the proceedings …xi). Elsie was Alma's uncle Herbert PATFIELD'S daughter. I have been puzzled how Alma learnt music to the standard she attained, when it would require tuition from a young age at Lostock, extending to Paterson. The tuition given to Elsie must have been of a high standard to reach ALCM or Associate of the London College of Music. If Alma (b.1901), the opening soloist, appeared on the same platform as Elsie (b.1898), it can be assumed they were of commensurate standard and perhaps had the same teacher? Alma was also reported at the 1922 St Paul's Paterson Annual Sale of Work where "a duet played by Mrs Tucker and Miss Alma Patfield formed part of the opening proceedings " …ii).

Alma took part in the social events of Paterson. In 1919 she won the euchre tournament with her partner Mr E. Goodwin at the School of Arts euchre party and dance …xiii) and in the same year she was reported at the Paterson Peace Ball wearing a mauve satin dress, with net overall, with her sister Lydia who wore a pink satin dress …xiv). Unremarkable? Not when you consider that in later life as a minister's wife, she supported her husband's disapproval of dancing and card playing!

In 1921, when Alma was aged 20, she acted as a witness [above the age of 18 …xxi)] to her father's second marriage to Alice Mary TOWNS (née WARR) …xx). She would have mixed socially with her new stepmother's TOWNS children in Paterson, and was reported as working on the same "Annual Sale of Work" in 1922 with her 11 year old new step sister Dorrie TOWNS & her sister Lydia PATFIELD …xii).

Alma's Aunty Vic (the past organist at St Paul’s) …xv), xvi) must have encouraged Alma to also fill the same position. This led to the following letter of appreciation from the Rector, the Rev. HMR Rupp:

The Rectory, Paterson
Miss Alma Patfield, Brisbane Grove, Paterson.
Dear Miss Patfield,
With sincere regret I accept your resignation as organist of St Paul’s, knowing that it is under the circumstances inevitable. I am, of course, only a newcomer as yet, but I have been here long enough to appreciate how thoroughly conscientious you have been at your post; and I am not merely “following convention” in saying that I greatly regret your resignation and approaching departure. This perhaps rather selfish of me: but I feel that St Paul’s Church under present conditions can ill afford to lose you and the example you have set. It was my hope that the congregation would express in some tangible form their appreciation of your work and their good will towards you, but although I have been assured of both the appreciation and the goodwill, there seem to be difficulties in the nature of local customs and precedent.
You are leaving your post to take up a much more difficult one. I know that its difficulties will be faced by you in the right spirit, & you have chosen a good part in giving yourself to be help-meet and companion to one who has been called to the Christian priesthood. If the pathway is beset with difficulties, you will both find, I am sure, that God gives with them compensations which far outweigh them. May He grant you both strength to endure hardness, & the joy of helping to build up His Kingdom among men. With sincere good wishes for your happiness & welfare,
Believe me,
Yours faithfully
HMR Rupp
Rector of Paterson …x)

In about 1912 the church obtained the organ which Alma played …xvi) . The instrument was finally placed in the Paterson Historical Museum after the church replaced the “old foot-operated organ with a small electric model” in 1975 …xxii). The Museum organ is a 15 stop "Mason & Hamlin" one manual reed organ with foot operated bellows. It did not have a pedal keyboard which would have indicated the possible extent of my mother's repertoire …iii), xxiii).

One more paradox… my mother the organist, and yet I never even saw my mother playing the piano! Perhaps all her energies were spent in supporting my father as Rector of the Parish… rather than being an independent talented woman? I never knew she was a pupil teacher until the very end of her life! Alma was born at the wrong time.

Here is a letter from the Rev HMR Rupp’s wife, Florence, to my mother, dated 25 March, 1925.  The letter was written just before my mother’s marriage on 28 Mar 1925 at St Mary’s Waverley.

Dear Alma,
On behalf of the Women’s Guild, Choir and a few other friends I ask you to accept the enclosed gift as a small token of appreciation of your work as organist of St Paul’s Church.  With one or two exceptions only the regular attendants at St Paul’s were invited to join so that it goes from those who really knew and valued your work.  We want you to choose with it something for your home.
All join with me in kindest regards to yourself and Mr Strong and every good wish for your happiness.
I shall be thinking of you on Saturday at St Mary’s (Waverley)— Gladys gave us your message.
With love,
Yours sincerely
Florence Rupp
PS We thought you might like to see the list of the friends who contributed.

Mrs WT Swan, Miss Margaret Swan, Miss Dorothy Swan, Miss Swan, Mr G Goodwin, Mrs DF Reynolds, Mr & Mrs A Reynolds, Mr S Reynolds, Mrs Howell, Miss Jackson, Mr & Mrs M Smith, Miss Ethel Patfield, Mr & Mrs JS Brown, Mr Monckton, Mr Doyle, Mrs JA Smith, Miss Bonnie Smith, Miss Lock, Miss D. Brown, Mrs H Corner, Mrs Pring, Mr J Tucker, Miss M Tucker, Mrs Marquet, Mrs AG Reynolds, Mrs Molly Martin, Mrs Crouch, Mrs W. Humbles, Miss Couper, Miss Taylor, Mrs Middleton, Mrs Rupp. …x)

Note:  An historically interesting list by the Rector’s wife of the women she felt were regular attenders at St Paul's Paterson in 1925? Florence Rupp's letter showed that the Rector's wife and the women of the Parish found a way around the Rector's previous view of local politics, quoted above, when he said: “It was my hope that the congregation would express in some tangible form their appreciation of your work and their good will towards you, but although I have been assured of both the appreciation and the goodwill, there seem to be difficulties in the nature of local customs and precedent.”


Marriage & Later Life.

My father Robert STRONG, had completed his course at Moore Theological College (Sydney) and was ordained deacon in 1923. I recall that I was told he then spent time in Paterson under an exchange scheme organised between St John's Theological College (Morpeth) and Moore College (Sydney). Victoria TUCKER, being a prominent member of St Paul's Paterson, organised how Robert was hosted. The rest was history for Victoria's niece, Alma!

On 28 Mar 1925 when Robert George David STRONG was 28, he married 24 year old Alma Maud PATFIELD, daughter of Ernest Montague PATFIELD (10 Dec 1876-18 May 1952) & Alice Maud ROSE (16 Jan 1878-6 Jun 1916), in St Mary’s Waverley C of E, Sydney, NSW. …#52


… to be completed.


Sources… Chapter 3:
i)    Oral history given by Alma STRONG to her son Philip about 1986
ii)   Birth of Alma Maud PATFIELD. Reg# 1901/15880. Registrar of BDM, NSW.
iii)  Val Patfield. Pers. comm. ; 2015.
iv)   Ernest Montague PATFIELD. Series: Bankruptcy, #13658. File# 17769. NSW State Records.
      (Referring to Dr Bennett).
v)   Paterson River History. (Details of Sussex House).
vi)  Cynthia Hunter. Croll's Mill Dungog: 1917-1969. Hunter House Publications; Raymond Terrace, 1999: 29.
vii)  Valma Patfield. George & Mary Patfield 1763-1853: convicts to pioneers. Self published; Paterson 2007: 72.
viii) Lostock Public School 1878-1978 Centenary. Lostock Parents & Citizens Association; 1978: 19.
ix)  Dept of Education (DET) Exams and pupil teachers.
x)   Philip Strong. Personal papers. (Alma's sheet music, confirmation certificate, and letters from Rev H.M.R. Rupp and his wife).
xi)  District Intelligence Paterson. Maitland Weekly Mercury. 28 Dec 1918; 9.
     (Christmas celebration for Paterson Public School… Alma Patfield opening soloist).
xii)  St Paul's Paterson. Annual Sale of Work. Maitland Weekly Mercury. 18 Nov 1922; 14.
     (Duet played by Mrs Tucker and Miss Alma Patfield).
xiii)  Paterson. Maitland Weekly Mercury. 28 Jun 1919; 7.
     (School of Arts euchre party and dance.).
xiv)  District News Letters: Paterson. Maitland Daily Mercury. 11 Oct 1919; 6.
     (Paterson Peace Ball).
xv)  St Paul's Paterson. Maitland Weekly Mercury. 20 Apr 1901; 14.
     ( Miss Victoria PATFIELD, organist).
xvi)  St Paul's Church Paterson. Organ fund. Maitland Daily Mercury. 17 Aug 1912; 8.
     (Concerning the new organ).
xvii)  Lostock School c. 1913. State Records NSW: Dept of Education; NRS 15051/1/21,
      Photo, 01/01/1913 to 31/12/1913.
xxiii)  Marriage of Alma PATFIELD & Robert George David STRONG. Reg# 1925/81941. Registrar of BDM, NSW.
xix)   Death of Alice Maud PATFIELD. Reg# 8166/1916. Registrar of BDM, NSW.
xx) Marriage of Alice Mary TOWNS & Ernest Montague PATFIELD. Reg# 7245/1921. Registrar of BDM, NSW.
xxi)  Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961. See here.
xxii)  Pauline M. Clements. History of St Paul’s Church Paterson. Paterson Historical Society; 1993:12.
xxiii)  Val Patfield. Photo of organ in the Paterson Historical Society Museum.
      Acknowledgements… chapter 3:
I am grateful for the correspondence and contact with Colin Horn, Mary Horn, Barbara Horn, Valma & Wayne Patfield, Sue & Mike Rabbitt, David Smith, Shirley Threlfo, Brian Walsh. Particular thanks to my late friend Olga Irene Mary (Olga) MARQUET (née WILSON) d. 20 Dec 2013. Her encyclopaedic friendly assistance is really missed. Photos were kindly provided by Colin Horn: Sussex House; Sue Rabbitt: Alma & Lyd Patfield with Mary Tucker at Brisbane Grove.


It would be great if descendants of the PATFIELDs, or people with knowledge of this family, could make contact with me. See the e-mail link at the bottom of this page.


The Story Continues