Maryborough’s Audrey Wex with her brother Chas. Audrey took great care of her five younger siblings.
Maryborough’s Audrey Wex with her brother Chas. Audrey took great care of her five younger siblings. Karleila Thomsen

Family most important to Audrey

ON THE eve of Audrey Wex’s 80th birthday this week, the Maryborough woman was as quick-witted as ever.

“No television in those days,” she said, as she showed an old black-and-white photograph of her grandparents and their 11 children.

Her Queenslander home is full of all those things that mean family – dozens of photographs hang on the walls and sit on sideboards; an old cane armchair that belonged to her grandmother sits in the corner of a room and relatives surround the matriarch of the family as she recalls her early days growing up on a farm in Maryborough’s Island Plantation district.

“I was the eldest of six children,” she said.

“We were happy. We all had our chores to do on the farm and I helped look after the younger children.

“We didn’t have money like people do these days but we always had food and if we didn’t, a chook lost its head.”

After attending St Helen’s school from Prep to Year 5, Audrey Schmidt left her formal education to work on the farm and learn dress-making.

She met Bert Wex at the tennis courts when she was a teenager and the couple married in 1953 after a five-year courtship.

And so began another generation that had its roots in Prussian Germany.

Audrey’s peasant farmer great-grandparents, Wilhelm Carl and Louise Schmidt, arrived at the Port of Maryborough in January 1877.

They had endured the long sea trip from Germany on The Lammershagen with their five-year-old son Carl August Schmidt.

Little Carl had a playmate on the voyage – his three-year-old cousin, Anna Maria Nitschinsk.

Carl August and Anna Maria grew up and fell in love.

The cousins married in 1894 – a family secret that wasn’t uncovered until their grandson, Audrey’s brother Chas Schmidt, started researching the family history many years later.

“It wasn’t spoken about in the family,” Chas said.

“I first found out when I did the family research, after Granny died – we never even knew before then that Granny and Grandfather were cousins.”

Original settler Wilhelm worked at a sawmill until he was able to buy his own property.

After Carl and Anna grew up and married, they worked on their property at Island Plantation. They had 11 children, including Audrey’s father Carl August.

He married Audrey’s mother Doreen Agnes in 1929 and the couple had six children.

Audrey was the eldest. Her brother Carl August, who prefers to be known as Chas, was 12 years her junior and looked on Audrey as a mother figure.

As Chas described her caring nature, tears sprang to his eyes.

“Audrey is the most caring person I know,” he said.

“She’s a mother figure to all the family and we all love her.”

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