Who are you named after?
The answer may be no one or nothing in particular. However, if a namesake does exist, the chances are very high they are a family member. In fact, odds are very much in favour of your grandparents being involved.
This is true of Sophie Maddock. She was named after her great- great grandmother, Sophia Maddock.
Just like all other children named after beloved family members, the tradition of Sophie being given a family name to carry on is one entrenched in hope.
Hope the child may espouse some of the same qualities of the person they are named after. Hope that person – the namesake – knows how much they are loved. Hope that life can be given meaning through the legacy of a single word, a name.
But, where Sophie’s story may differ to your own is that how she came to be, or rather how her namesake came to marry her great-great-grandfather George, involves an Australian legend, and multiple journeys across the vast expanse of Australia itself.
The Maddock family and Sophia’s own family were both settled in Williamstown, Melbourne’s first port settlement, when the story of George and Sophia’s courtship begins sometime between 1870 and 1880. It’s important to note dates are unverified, but that’s the beauty of being gifted a family name: the fun is in telling the story as it is known, not precisely how it was.
What follows is the story of how Sophie Maddock, a sixth generation Maddock living in Western Australia, was given her name as she has been told.
“It’s hard to tell the story of Sophia without first telling the story of her husband, George Maddock,” Sophie said.
“As a young man, George was droving stock out of Bendigo, Victoria, and was in a camp run by none other than Ned Kelly himself. Apparently, he noticed Ned was picking off cattle of good health, but as Ned was head of the team George was part of, he said nothing.
“Still, George was suspicious and one night he noticed a whole lot of smoke and fire in the distance, so rode up to have a look. What he found was a whole other crew of Ned Kelly’s picking up the cattle he’d pulled off from the mob earlier.
“George told his parents and they told him to get out of there as the punishment for cattle duffing was death at that time. They gave him their life savings to get as far away as possible. So, George ended up in Western Australia.”
After putting the width of the continent between himself and Ned Kelly, George’s life turned to love and legacy, while Ned’s ended in infamy with his hanging in 1880.
Sophie said while her historian grandmother’s research into their family history had tracked all the way back to before Ned Kelly’s notoriety, it was still unclear if George was dating Sophia before he left for the West coast. It appears the history books show more about death than they do about love.
They believe George penned a letter in Western Australia and sent it to Sophie, who was still back in Victoria, asking if she would move to the other side of the country and marry him.
Given the pair were married in 1890, Sophia must have said yes. And so, the assumption extends, sometime between when the letter was written and when they were married, Sophia made the trip across the Nullarbor Plain by herself. Or, at least without George.
“We don’t know if she made the trip by train, horse, or what,” Sophie said. “All we know is they were droving stock and cattle in Mukinbudin, at the edge of the Wheatbelt.
“It’s where my family has stayed ever since. At least, until five years ago when we sold up and moved to Badgingarra.”
While Mukinbudin may only be a three-and-a-half hours’ drive from Perth today, in George and Sophia’s day, the trip would have been a long and tiring journey. In fact, George and Sophia’s arrival in Mukinbudin was one of the first white settlements in the area.
“George and Sophia did settle and claim land there eventually, after droving for a number of years,” Sophie said. “And they did have an Aboriginal community that worked for them. But, I’m very proud of how they treated the locals there. George was apparently one of the first man in the area paying the Aboriginal workers, which was unheard of in itself, but he was also paying them the same as a white man.
“Sophia was a part of that, and there was a lot of stories of George and Sophia being called on to look after the women and children in times of crisis. Someone from a neighbouring population raped one of the women at Mukinbudin, and so the men left to seek out justice. They asked George and Sophia, ‘Will you look after our women and children while we go for one moon, maybe two?’ They said yes and off they went.
“I think that’s a pretty strong indicator of how respected they were in that community. And, that’s pretty amazing.
“Sophia was often left alone when George went out bush or to camp droving with the men. He would be gone many weeks at a time, and Sophia would be left running the camp.
“We know she had many miscarriages, and six children. One of her children died in the first year of life and they are buried on the farm. The grave is still there.
“Then Sophia got cervical cancer, or something like that, and the doctors in Western Australia couldn’t treat it. They knew hardly anything about it. Sophia got very sick, so she and George decided to leave the five children with the Aboriginal community, who were essentially family, while they made the trip back across the Nullarbor. It was their only hope – to get treatment in the East.
“She lost that battle and died in Victoria, but George brought her dead body back across the Nullarbor again – her third time! – and buried her beside their child.”
One of those five children was Norm, who then had a son Albert, who had a son Evan, who had a daughter he decided to call Sophie.
Sophie was born much later than her other siblings – “very much the whoops-y! child” – a sister and two brothers; there’s six years between her and her closest sibling. It was already tradition in the Maddock family for names to be passed on. And, while there is no George in their family, there is a Sophia. Of sorts.
“Yes, I was named after Soph, but Dad made a mistake on the birth certificate. He thought it was Sophie not Sophia,” Sophie said.
And, so a new name with a very old story attached to it was born.
In a twist of history and the present day aligning, Sophie herself made a trip – by plane – across the Nullarbor to attend university in Bendigo, where Sophia and George’s WA origins story had begun centuries before.
Unlike the Maddock family however, Sophie decided to study Outdoor Education. She’s a qualified instructor/facilitator in bush environments, specialising in white water rafting and flat-water canoeing, and takes kids on adventures that last anywhere between a day and two weeks.
She said it’s incredibly rewarding work, but her heart has never left the farm.
“I remember at boarding school and being so excited about all the opportunities there – the sport and extracurricular activities – but I was always yearning for the farm. I like to think I was missing my parents and family as well, but think it was the agriculture and space that I was missing most,” Sophie said.
“When I left school though, I fought the urge to do ag because I’d seen my family do it tough in the Wheatbelt. So, I turned to my Plan B and studied an amazing degree I loved and still love.
“But after uni, I still had this huge desire to get home. I went to the Pilbara in WA and worked on a station for a season. I absolutely loved it and got a taste of how other people run stock, which was very beneficial for me to learn there’s more ways to do things than how my family do it.
“And, I was already in that mind frame – eager to learn – from university. I couldn’t fight it any longer.”
Sophie knew she was headed home for good. To settle there and stay just as George and Sophia, and all the generations that followed them, have done. But before that, Sophie decided she needed to put a lot of distance between her and that place one last time. So, much like George’s parents did, she invested her life savings in getting as far away as possible – travelling the world for nine months backpacking around various countries.
She got back in November 2019 and has been on the farm ever since.
Is her yearning satisfied? She says, Definitely.
“It was partly satisfied in just coming home,” Sophie said, “but it was cemented in the fact the yearning had changed. Now there’s a yearning to learn more.
“I want to be able to look at my paddock and know exactly what’s going on under the soil, to know plants by name, and how they are benefiting my sheep in terms of their nutrients. At this stage, I can’t do that. I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m getting stuck into it.”
Over the six generations of her family living in WA, Sophie knows farming has changed a lot. Her conversations with her grandparents and people of their generation reiterate that. It’s nothing Sophie is negative about, just the nature of time and education.
“That generation – a lot of them cleared the land. They were taught to see a big mob of trees as a waste of space rather than its potential. While for me, especially with my Outdoor Education degree, I have a huge love for sustainability and holistic farming and creating environments or ecosystems that are ever-feeding, rather than having big inputs,” she said.
“And that desire has come from my love of the outdoors, my love of nature, and that’s definitely filtered down from generations past.”
Sophie said her parents “raised pretty adventurous kids” and recalled a childhood where her friends would ask their parents if they could stay at the ‘zoo’ that was the Maddock household.
“We had pet animals everywhere. As long as we’d agree to look after and care for it, our Dad would catch anything for us. From that, we developed this huge love, appreciation and knowledge. That came from his father, and at some point, can only have come from George and Sophia.”
That love, appreciation and growing knowledge fostered because of her family is what drives Sophie to carve out her own space in the ag industry.
“I think we’ve been very progressive and forward thinking and ahead of our time,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate, the family I have, they’ve always given me the same opportunities as my brothers. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people.
“I’ve been lucky with the family I’ve been dealt because now I’m confident in myself. That rubs off on people and I don’t give people a chance to put me second because of my gender.
“That’s not to say I haven’t felt like I’ve had to prove myself in the past. But recently I decided I’ve gained my skills and am confident in what I can do whether in the sheep yards or reversing a vehicle.
“And now I feel I don’t have to prove myself. Not that I’ll ever catch up to my brothers. Because I am physically different, and I can’t change that. But now, I’m happy to say, ‘I can’t lift that’ and find other things I can do like getting a jack from the shed, so I won’t be sore tomorrow.
“Also, my little thing recently is that I also now wear my pearl earrings in the sheep yards. I heard of a woman doing it, and she’s an amazing stock person, and she said we don’t have to be the same. I can do the same, but now I’m wearing the pearls again and not pretending I’m not a female.
“I have turned a leaf and it feels so relieving to be at this stage. But I can’t have seen myself getting here any other way. I wouldn’t have been able to tell myself five years ago to just ask for help. I had to learn it.”
It’s that sentiment of not being able to see any other way of arriving at a place that is at the heart of all legacies. At the heart of family.
It’s a tale of hope. All traditions are.
Story by : Megan Stafford