THE HISTORY OF THE SYKES FAMILY IN AUSTRALIA

 

Stephen John Sykes (fourth generation)

Stephen John Sykes (fourth generation) was born in 1877 at Currawang in the Goulburn district of N.S.W. Stephen was the fourth son of Stephen Sykes and Charlotte Barden. He was educated at the local Currawang School and received his early religious training from his devout parents. The fact that he was able to withstand the "rip tide" of city life and never deviate from allegiance to his church was a tribute to the faith and religious principles instilled into him by those good parents.

It was in his early manhood that he left the property at Currawang and joined the Sydney Government Tramways. His years of service in this department were marked by conscientious devotion to duty and to his fellow workers, with whom he was very popular, and whom he loved with a deep sincerity. A number of these men were of the same faith and shared his love for the poor, which found expression in the activities of the St Vincent de Paul Society, of which he was a life-long member.

He was a sport-lover and represented his fellow workers in competitive Rugby Union football (see photo left). His loyalty to the team almost delayed his wedding day. The team came to him in distress two days prior to his wedding telling him they were a man short. He had promised Anne Teresa Madigan, his fiancee, that he would not play football for at least a fortnight before the wedding. However he could not let his mates down, so he played. The result was a black eye which had to be treated with leeches to make his face presentable for the wedding. His marriage with Anne Madigan (see below) was ideal.
For more details of Stephen, Ann and descendants, see Stephen - Stephen and Ellen line.

One character and temperament complemented the other, and they were united in all the main issues and ideals of life, religious beliefs and a correct set of values. One interest which bound them together and added to the harmony of their family life was their common love of music. Stephen was possessed of a musical baritone voice, and many were the musical evenings in which the whole family participated. However, it was his gentle patience, and devotion to his family, rather than his love for music which gave him the fortitude to endure the following situation: When the children went to secondary school, their father took on "all-night" driving to meet the expenses. He claimed it was easier than day work because of the absence of traffic. But this pre-supposed that he could sleep during the day. The cottage was small, and the three children were all learning music, with the inevitable practice during the day. This, plus the thoughtlessness of children in making noise and often breaking into his room, made it well nigh impossible for him to get adequate rest. But he never complained.

He was a lover of horses; in fact, of everything connected with the land. Thanks to the generous hospitality of Goulburn relatives, the family spent an annual holiday at country homesteads—a joy eagerly looked forward to by all the family. Stephen John loved to get among the animals—sheep or cattle—but particularly did he revel in managing any lively horse that might be giving trouble. To the day he died he bore a slight scar on his upper lip—the impress of a horse's hoof. His sister was in a buggy with two runaway horses, with reins flying, rushing to disaster. He saw the predicament, grabbed the reins, and had his face trodden upon.

But this strong man was not unfeeling. He was on one occasion touched to the depths by a stirring sermon in which the preacher described the love and sufferings of Christ. His response to the Heart of Christ was life-long. When his work necessitated his having to miss Sunday Mass, he would deem it his loving duty to be present at evening devotions and Rosary. Whereas Anne T. was an eloquent and outspoken champion of the faith, Stephen J's life was a silent sermon of humble charity. He always had an excuse for the most glaring offender, even for the likes of Billy Hughes, whose principles he did not altogether support.

In his last illness this same concern for others made him excuse and encourage a young doctor who could not find a vein for an injection; and was causing him intense pain by probing below the skin rather clumsily. When told by his priest son that he was about to receive the last Sacraments, he instantly "snapped out" of a comatose condition, recited the Act of Contrition aloud in his strong baritone voice,and with all the strength he could muster, gave a touching, manly welcome to the God he loved.

He died in Lewisham Hospital and was buried in the Catholic section of the Field of Mars Cemetery, Sydney.

Anne Teresa Madigan

Anne Madigan was born in 1874 at Araluen, a little town near Braidwood, N.S.W., and died in Sydney in 1955. She was the third daughter of a family of six, one of whom, a boy, died in infancy. Both parents were Irish settlers, and it was with an air of pride she could point to a photo of her father, dressed in the uniform of an Irish patriot. These Irish parents engendered in their children a love of the Catholic faith, of culture and refinement which was fostered and continued by the Good Samaritan Sisters (in Anne s case) at their boarding convent in Braidwood. Anne was a very apt pupil and when she left the school she had passed the University Junior Exam with a good classical education, which included Latin, French, Physics, Art, Music and the other basic subjects. Anne's youngest sister, Cecily, became a Good Samaritan Nun. It was thought at one stage that Anne too had a religious vocation' but as events proved, God had other work for her to do.

As the parents died at an early age, the children migrated mainly to Sydney. Anne took the position of governess, first to a cattle-station owner's daughter, and then to a German family at the Barrenjoey lighthouse. As she had studied Art under Julian Ashton on first coming to Sydney, she was able to do many fine landscape paintings of these beautiful places while staying there. Her final position before being married to Stephen J. Sykes was that of commercial artist for the firm of Grace Bros., Sydney.

In 1909 she was married from her brother's home at Waverley in Mary Immaculate Church to Stephen John Sykes. The union was ideal, as both had the same deep devotion to the Catholic faith and to all that is best and noble in life.

They settled in Sydney and three children were born of that marriage. During their married life, Anne was almost a daily communicant, an ardent church worker, revered by both Catholic and Protestant alike for her profound tolerance and sound judgment. One of the students from St John's University College, whom her son, Myles, brought home for a musical evening, remarked: "Your mother is one of the most cultured and charming women I have met so far."

After her children left home, one, Brendan (photo left and lower left), to become a Missionary of the Sacred Heart, the second, Cecily, to become a nun (Sister Mary Cecile, shown left and below) with the daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, and the third, Stephen Myles, to get married, she devoted herself to charitable works, the main one being the teaching of Catechism in State Schools. This she carried out faithfully and successfully for over twenty years. Several of the lads under her were instrumental in bringing their parents back to the faith, and having their marriages rectified. One of her pupils later became a priest.

She always showed a refreshing disregard of worldly honours and material wealth. On one occasion the possibility was mentioned that her son, a priest student, might be sent to Rome for higher studies. Her immediate comment was: "God forbid!" All she wanted was that he should be a good priest and she felt that the climate and food in Rome would ruin his health.

She was an indefatigable champion of the faith, and seemed to have the happy knack of putting the right "plug" in at the right time. One Italian family who had been away from the church for years were brought back to a life of fervour through her instrumentality. One could say God gave her great gifts and she used them without stint in His service. She died at her son's home at Eastwood in Sydney in 1955 and is buried with her husband in the Field of Mars Cemetery, Sydney.

Stephen Myles Sykes (fifth generation)

Stephen Myles Sykes, the youngest son of Stephen and Ann (Nancy) Sykes (nee Madigan), was born in Sydney on 16th September 1918 and was educated at the Marist Brothers, Darlinghurst. While at school he joined the St Vincent de Paul Society and developed a love for the poor which he retained till his sudden and unexpected death.

While at Darlinghurst, he won a James Murphy Bursary and took up residence at St John's College, in the University of Sydney, where he studied Agricultural Science. Outside regular studies he joined the Aquinas Academy and also the Campian Society. He also loved music and played the violin.

After graduating, he worked on the dehydration of foodstuffs; this was a vital wartime work. In 1947 he joined the N.S.W. Department of Agriculture and was sent to the U.S. to study developments in quick freezing; this was his field of work until he joined C.S.I.R.O. in Hobart in 1958.

In Hobart he was leader of a research unit which investigated the preservation of fruit, vegetables and fish, with particular emphasis on the needs of the Tasmanian industries. He obtained an M.Sc. from the University of Tasmania in 1964. In 1953 Myles married Marie Austin and settled in Earlwood. Paul and Stephen were both born in Sydney. Anne Marie was born in Hobart.

Early in 1969 Myles was again sent overseas to the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, several European countries, and Singapore. On this tour he studied advances in the techniques of processing apples and potatoes and the utilisation of berry fruits. He was looking forward to putting his findings into effect when he was suddenly called to God on 17th November 1969. He is buried in Tasmania.

Ellen Sykes (fourth generation), sister of Stephen