According to her birth certificate, Nellie SOMERS was born on 20 May 1889 to Thomas Somers and Alice Somers nee O’Keefe. Alice was living at Georges Bay area in the north east of Tasmania. No marriage has been found for Thomas and Alice though.

Nellie had many siblings but it is not proven yet if they are full siblings or half siblings as the father is not mentioned on many of the birth certificates.

  • Kate Clarke born 4 Feb 1893 parents as West Clarke and Alice O’Keefe Clarke then baptised as Kate Clarke on 28 March 1893 with parents John Clarke and Alice Clarke
  • William Henry Somers born 6 Dec 1894 mother Alice Somers at Lottah, but baptised as William Henry Clark on 28 Jan 1895 parents as Wes Clark and Alice Somers
  • Jessie May Somers born 15 May 1897 mother Alice Somers but baptised as Jessie May Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
  • Joseph Edward Somers born 30 Oct 1898 mother Alice Somers but baptised as Joseph Edward Clark on 14 Dec 1898 parents as John West Clark and Alice O’Keefe
  • Herbert Francis Somers born 4 Feb 1901 with mother as Alice Somers O’Keefe and her having been married in 1885 in Melbourne but no father for Herbert.

West Clarke was a contractor in Gould Country in north east Tasmania. The following was reported in The Mercury in May 1897.

At some stage in the next twenty years, Nellie moved to Queenstown. It was here that she met Alexander Dawson and had a daughter with him. It is unknown if he knew he was a father at that time. This has been proven through DNA.

This daughter, Irene Ellen Gertrude born in July 1909 on Bruny Island, was brought up by Nellie and her husband Robert Edward SMITH. No marriage has been found for Nellie and Robert but in the Hobart birth records for Robert Edward Ivan Smith in 1910, a marriage for his parents is mentioned as 16 April 1908 at Gormanston on the west coast of Tasmania.

Married life and children

  • Irene Ellen Gertrude 1909-1988
  • Robert Edward Ivan 1910-1910
  • William Henry Basil 1911-1988
  • Madelene Constance Victoria 1912-1999
  • Myra Isobella (Pat) 1913-2003
  • Olga Phyllis 1915-1969
  • Jack 1918-2000
  • Sarah Ellen (Sally) 1919-1968
  • Thomas Allan 1921-2003
  • David 1923-2010
  • Mervyn Leslie 1925-2002
  • Ruby Margaret 1927-2010
  • James Henry (Tony) 1929 –
  • Maxwell Brian 1931-1993
Nellie with two of her children Ruby and Max.

We can follow the family’s moves by looking at the electoral rolls.

  • 1914 – living at Ramsgate in the Esperance municipality and Robert was a  sawmiller.
  • 1919 – living at Garden Island Creek near Port Cygnet and Robert working as a mill hand.
  • 1922 – living in Scottsdale with Robert working as a sawmiller.
  • 1928 – living at 4 Antill Street, Hobart. Robert was a wharf labourer and Nellie home duties.
  • 1937 – living at Oyster Cove and Robert earning a wage as a labourer.
  • 1949 – living at 307A Liverpool Street. Living at home with Nellie and Robert were David (a trainee), Jack (plasterer) and Mervyn Leslie (labourer).

Nellie died on 4 June 1952 and it was reported in the papers.

A bereavement notice was put in the local paper in July by her husband and family who were still living at the same address.

An inquest was held into the death of Nellie. She left home about 2pm with the intention to visit her daughter Irene Ellen Wyatt at the Albion Hotel where she worked. But Nellie did not visit her. She was found the next day, floating near the Domain Slipyards. The coroner found her death to be asphyxia by drowning but no idea how she came to be in the water.

Irene Nellie and her husband Robert Edward Smith (died 1964) are buried together at Cornelian Bay in the Church of England section B53

Memories of Irene Nellie from my father, her grandson. 

When his mother, Irene Ellen Gertrude Smith was walking him home to Goulburn Street, they would sometimes drop in to the house at Liverpool Street to visit his grandparents.

Alexander DAWSON Junior

Alexander Junior was the third of eleven children born to Alexander Senior and Hannah Dawson nee Sutton. He was born on 11 February 1884 at Gladstone in the Ringarooma district in Tasmania.

Alexander’s siblings were:

  • William John Alexander  1882 – 1884 – died by drowning in Gladstone
  • Albert William 1883 – 1981
  • Catherine Mary 1886 – 1973
  • Henry George 1891 – 1916 – died in WWI
  • John McKay 1892 – 1915 – died in WWI
  • Olive Maud 1894 – 1972
  • Myrtle Amy 1894 – 1975
  • George Byron Matthew 1896 – 1982
  • William Percy 1898 – 1945
  • Frederick Roy (James) 1900 – 1982
  • Half sibling Eileen Blanche CAREY 1905 –

On 27 March 1884, his Lordship Bishop Sandford visited Gladstone. One of his duties there was to administer rites of baptism to Alexander Dawson’s infant child. This was probably Alexander Junior.

The Dawson’s were a mining family first at Gladstone and then they moved to Queenstown.

At age 17, Alexander’s father passed away .

Alexander senior passed away from inflammation of the lungs due to working multiple extended shifts in succession. This was not normally permitted due to the poor quality air in underground mining known to cause lung complaints. But in this case it was overlooked because they’d lost all their belongings in a housefire associated with the nearby bushfires. Alexander was trying to rebuild his home and contents for the family. They lived in a poorer area of Queenstown known as The Pigsty, adjacent to the current football ground. [1]

His wife was left to bring up 10 children of which only one was an age to get a job at the mines. Hannah married again fairly quickly as she had five children under the age of seven when her first husband passed.

At some stage in late 1908, Alexander spent at least one evening with Irene Nellie Somers/Clark and in July 1909 his daughter, Irene was born on Bruny Island. This has been proved through DNA matches. Alexander had no knowledge of this daughter as far as I know.

Married life and children

His marriage to Sarah Jane HAWKINS occurred on 17 July 1912 in Queenstown, Tasmania.

Their first child Alexander Charles was born in September 1912 but unfortunately died three weeks later on 7 October at Preston Street, Queenstown.

Just five days later Alexander was involved in the famous North Lyell Disaster. A Royal Commission into the disaster was held in December 1912 and Alexander was called as a witness.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Two of Alexander’s brothers were also involved in the disaster – Albert and Henry.

Alexander and Jane’s second child Ronald was born in 1913 and their first daughter Eileen in 1916 at Austin Street, Queenstown.

Alexander was still mining at Mount Lyell North in 1917 when he was brought up on charges of personal negligence in endangering the safety of two miners working in the mine.

In October 1923, their second daughter Olive was born in Queenstown.

His wife, Jane (also known as Jenny), died on 7 November 1924, from an allergy to a bee sting. [2]

Two weeks later Alexander was charged with indecent behaviour in Little Orr Street, Queenstown.

After Sarah died, Alexander continued to work to feed & clothe the family. The eldest son Ron (Adrian’s grandfather), from age 11, looked after his two sisters in his father’s absence. Alexander was known to ‘touch the bottle along’ after Jenny’s death. After Alexander’s death, Ron continued to care for his sisters until they found their own lives as adults. [3]

Ron with his sisters Eileen and Olive

Alexander died in 1933 from fatal injuries after falling at a sideshow and not regaining consciousness when taken to hospital. A fantastic obituary was written in the local paper. An inquest was held and the coroner gave the verdict of accidental death.

Both Jane and Alexander are buried in the Queenstown cemetery


  1. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  2. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  3. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021