No one knows the importance of a good family – or the corrosive effect of the lack of one – more than Michael Livsey.
Born in 1947, he was raised by his grandmother, and was under the impression for much of his life that she was his mother. His real mother, he later found out, was among “the most dysfunctional people who have ever walked this Earth.”
His sister died in an accident at the age of ten, and when Michael was nine years old his grandmother killed herself in front of him. By the age of 16 Michael was living on the streets of Sydney. He’s now in his sixties, and for his whole life, he said, he believed “I’d come from nothing and I’ve got nobody.”
Then, at the start of this year, everything changed. He had decided to put headstones on the graves of his sister and grandmother – the only mother he had ever known – and he had them blessed by a priest.
While he was at the cemetery a woman approached him, saw what he was doing, and said “I used to play with your sister.”
That conversation triggered a tsunami of events in a few short months, and before long a researcher in Geelong had uncovered a cousin in America he’d never heard of who was able to tell him more about his family.
“I’m going on seventy and I’ve never seen a photo of my mother, my grandmother, or my sister, and all of a sudden I’ve had all these photos come back to me that were in my cousin’s possession,” he said.
And he found out about his great-grandfather, the father of the woman who raised him, named Michael Egan.
“Everything I’ve collected of him showed that he was just an incredible individual,” he said.
“He married the daughter of the Labor Member for Gundagai. He was the manager of an Aboriginal mission and brought a young Aboriginal boy back with him, it seems like he was always taking kids in and looking after them.
“I left home at 16 and I was a real problem child for 15 years and I just think that if he had known about me, he would have found me and taken me in.”
As it turns out, Michael Livsey was named for his great-grandfather, despite never knowing anything about him. Now, he’s asking the readers of this paper for any scraps of information they may have about the man, and best case scenario, maybe even a photo.
Here’s what he knows so far. Michael Egan lived for many years at 882 Gocup Road, halfway between Tumut and Gundagai. He is described in his obituary as “one of the best known figures in the life of Gundagai and surrounding districts.”
It states, in the 1936 notice in the paper, “he was one of the best liked people in this locality and was held in high esteem by a legion of friends.” His activities in Gundagai included involvement in the P and A Society, the Race Club, the Light Horse Brigade, football, and steeplechase. He was an auctioneer, farm manager, and a justice of the peace. He later moved to Tarcutta, where he owned the Tarcutta Hotel, and that is where he was buried.
“I went to his grave down in Tarcutta and I just felt so much pride standing next to him – to think that there are some good people in my family. I want to know more,” Michael said.
Michael lives in Sydney now, where he’s created a happy life for himself against all the odds.
After moving to London he turned his life around, and met his wife of several decades in Poland. He’s immensely proud of his son, a teacher at a Sydney private school. However, it’s his links to the past that he believes may finally bring him an inner peace.
“I truly believe that it was learning about Michael Egan that made me believe in myself, that I was somebody,” he said.
“I’m sure there are people down there that are related to me that would have drawers full of photos and other stories worth hearing about. That’s what I’m looking for.”
If you think you may be able to help, please email Michael Livsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.