This page details the life of Charles Alexander KEIRVEN (born CONNON) tracing him from Northumberland in the UK, to Australia.
Birth and early years in Northumberland
Charles Alexander was born on 18 Jan 1914, the third son of Thomas CONNON and Margaret (Maggie) DUDDING. He had two elder brothers; William (born in 1911) and George (born in 1912). The family was living in Walker, Northumberland.
Tragedy struck the family twice early on; Thomas died in 1914 (age 33) and George, the middle son, died in 1915 (age 2).
Margaret married James KEIRVEN in Jul 1918. James had also recently lost his wife (Isabella). The two remaining Connon boys (William and Charles Alexander) joined with James’ children (Johanna b. 1905, Elizabeth b. 1907, and George Vincent b. 1910) and assumed the Keirven surname. There was another child of the pair born before they were married; Nora was born late in 1917 and died four months later (Jan 1918). At the time of the wedding the family was living in Percy St, Tynemouth (North Shields, Tyne and Wear). James and Margaret had three more children together; James (b. 1922), John L. (b. 1924), and Robert F. (b. 1931, after James snr. sailed to Australia).
Emigration to Australia
At some point in the mid-20′s there was a decision to emigrate to Australia. Johanna had moved out of home and Elizabeth had sailed to the USA. James sailed on the SS Berrima on 6 Jan 1927, arriving in Melbourne on 14 Feb. The family had returned to Walker by this time, living at 45 Diamond Row (now demolished). In May 1928 the three eldest remaining boys, George Vincent (18yrs), William (16) and Charles Alexander (14) sailed on the same ship (SS Berrima) to Melbourne, Australia. They arrived on 3 Jul 1928.
It is not known if the boys re-united with their father James in Melbourne. George took Ill and died in Sept 1929 (14 months later). It appears the boys split up to find their fortunes, with William returning to his birth name of Connon and possibly returning to the UK or working in New South Wales for many years and then returning to the UK.
Charles Alexander moved to Tallangatta in the north-east of Victoria. He shows up on the 1936, ’37 and ’42 Electoral Rolls there. He was a jockey by trade and showed up riding in Geelong in 1931, and Albury in 1940.
Service in WWII
Charles enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 4 Nov 1940 at Albury. His address given at the time was Bellevue St, Albury, which was contrary to his electoral address in in 37 & 1942. His NOK is given as a Mrs M F Cunningham on a property at Biggara near Corryong. There’s no indication of their relationship.
Private Keirven (VX50762) commenced Full Time War Service on 7 Mar 1941. He was assigned to the 2/1 Machine Gun Battalion (2/1 Aust M.G. Bn) in August of that year. He was a gun number in 7 Platoon, B. Company. In 1942/43 he served in New Guinea and in 1945 in Balikpapan, the Bn being part of 7th Division by then. Other than a few AWOL charges in 1944, he had a clean service record.
On one of his service and casualty record sheets it has a handwritten note on top that reads like “Supp NOK, VX43255, Pte Keirven R. S., 2/23rd Bn”. But the only VX43255 that appears in the national archives is a Rob Edward Stephens.
On discharge, he listed his home address as Biggara via Corryong, VIC. He had served a total of 775 days in Australia and 835 days overseas.
Post-war in Albury and Melbourne
After the war, Charles Alexander returned to Albury. According to the 1949 and 1954 Electoral Rolls he was living at 460 Swift St and was a groom (his jockey days being over). In 1955, at age 41, he married Patricia Joy ROBINSON in Albury. It’s not known if he had any children. There aren’t many Keirven’s in the phone books and he would have been the last male Keirven of child-bearing age in Australia at that time.
He (they) must have moved to Melbourne at some stage after that. In Jul 1973 he sent a letter to get his war medals, and his address was Flat 11, 49 Kenneth St, Sandringham. He died in 1980, at age 66, in Heidelberg, Melbourne. He was cremated at the Springvale Cemetery on 24 Nov and his ashes scattered.