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Australian woman flies around the world to visit ancestor’s grave

Robyne at the grave of George Melksham

THEgreat-great-great-granddaughter of a Melksham man who was found on a doorstep as a baby in 1815 and given the surname ‘Melksham’ flew around the world from Brisbane, Australia, to visit the town and to pay tribute to her ancestor.

Wanting to explore the town where her family name began, photojournalist Robyne Cuerel (whose maiden name is Melksham) made sure to visit the town and take some time to visit the grave of her great-great-great-grandfather George Melksham, which still remains on the site of the National Trust Distribution Centre on Western Way.

Retelling the local story from the 1800s Robyne said, “What I know and what I have always embraced is that a baby was found on a doorstep in a town called Melksham, which is my family name. They didn’t know where the baby came from or who he was. So they named him George, after the King at that time and gave him the surname Melksham.”

For the entirety of George’s life he remained in Melksham where he worked as an engine driver in a factory. Robyne continued, “I don’t know who raised him. But I do know that he met a Jane Parsons who he married and I think they had about seven children, continuing the Melksham name.”

Who left George on the doorstep back in 1815 remains a mystery, but Robyne and her family have a theory, “There is a little story about a Sir Walter Long and a servant girl called Sarah who had an affair. Sarah may have been the one to leave George on the doorstep. That sounds really far-fetched, but there was a Sir Walter Long in this area.”

Revealing a deeper connection to the story about her great-great-great grandfather, Robyne said, “Something that is interesting, unfortunately, is that there has been a far bit of illegitimacy in the family and with me. So when I came into this town today, I was thinking about George’s birth mother and how she was feeling, because in 1974 I had a son and I had to give him up. It broke my heart, but the reason I gave him up was because I was young and I believed that he would have a better life being raised by someone else. So when I came into this town today, I did think of the young mother, whoever she was. Obviously she left him on the doorstep because she couldn’t give him a good life, that’s what I’m thinking.”

Having worked for newspapers as a photojournalist in Australia for 20 years, Robyne thinks journalism might be in her blood, “Apparently one of my ancestors, one of the Melkshams was a town crier, so we have a history of journalism, going from ‘hear ye, hear ye’ to working in newspapers.”

Robyne was only in Melksham for the day, but the town made a great impression on her, she said, “It’s a beautiful little place, I just want to walk around and absorb the place.I have spoken to some of the locals and they all say that it’s only a little place, but everyone really really loves it.”