Wednesday, 17 July 2019

1835 - Alfred Haughton's Eventful Year ...

One of the things I love about family history is finding previously unknown “cousins”, and sharing information.  You just never know what precious items might be tucked away in a shoebox at the back of a cupboard somewhere else in the world.

A couple of years ago, I connected with a third cousin. We share great-great grandparents Alfred Haughton (1808-1858) and Henrietta nee Osburne (1802 -1878). The Haughtons were Quakers, and lived at Ardreigh, near Athy in county Kildare, Ireland, where Alfred owned the mill on the River Barrow. I have written about my adventures exploring my Haughton ancestors in an earlier post.

I was able to give my new-found cousin some Haughton photographs from my family collection, and in return she shared a document recently found among some old family papers. What a treasure that turned out to be!

Alfred Haughton
photo from the Pilkington Family Collection, kindly shared by Tom Pilkington

1835 was an eventful year for the Haughton family. At the end of the year, Alfred sat down and wrote his review of the year’s events.  How amazing that we are able to read his own words now, almost 185 years later.

Review of the year 1835, by Alfred Haughton
Oh help me dear memory to count over the Lord’s love to me during the past year – & may my gratitude be daily increased & shown both by obedience to His commands & acceptance of His love.

In the Spring of the year a ruffian came into my house at night and would have killed me, but the Omnipotent enabled me to trust in Him and gave me courage & firmness, & made the other a trembling coward & no harm happened for the Lord protected me & mine

In the Summer when going to the sea with my wife and child, the horse fell under the car. I was thrown off with my boy in my arms but no harm happened for the Lord protected us. The same season I went to bathe, saw what I deemed to be deep water, dived down, came with force against a rock – but no harm happened for the Lord protected me.

In the Autumn my wife after giving birth to my daughter was on the brink of expiring but the Lord turned from the fierceness of His wrath – no harm happened for the Lord had mercy on me!!!

The same season the Lord put it into the hearts of my three brothers to make me a present of some hundreds of pounds – “for the silver and gold are His and He gives them to whomsoever He pleases” – and he tries every way to win me to His love. ----- -----

In this month Dick my first born, my darling boy was seized with fever – my beloved wife was so uneasy about him the milk she was nursing my baby daughter with became poisonous & had she given it her any longer my baby would have died – the dear infant suffered much from the want of the nourishment the Lord had so tenderly supplied. He shewed me His love by sending quickly a proper nurse for my child – my darling boy is recovering – no harm has happened in this chastening – Therefore “what shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me. I will take the cup of Salvation and call upon the Lord.”


Alfred was the youngest son of Samuel Pierson Haughton (1748-1828) and his third wife Mary Pim (1762-1832).  The three brothers he refers to were likely his full siblings James, John and William, although he also had two older half-brothers.  All three were well established in their chosen careers by the time Alfred wrote this review. ‘Some hundreds of pounds’ would have been a considerable sum in 1835.

James Haughton (1795-1873)                 
Merchant and noted social reformer,     
active in the Temperance movement 
and anti-slavery cause. Often referred 
to as ‘Vegetable’ Haughton due to his 
vegetarian lifestyle.
By BPL - James Haughton, Public Domain,

John Haughton (1796-1845)                               
Miller – owned Barrow Mills in Graigue, 
Queen's county, (now county Laois).  
John Haughton’s wife was Louisa Courtauld 
Osburne, sister of Alfred’s wife Henrietta.

Silhouette picture of John Haughton. 
Kindly shared by Anita Hansen, Iowa, USA

William Haughton (1799-1877) 
Partner with his brother James in 
Haughton Merchants & Flour Factors 
based in Dublin.  Also Chairman of 
Great Southern & Western Railway 
Company of Ireland.

William Haughton. Picture shared on by Theo Haughton 2008

The baby daughter born in Autumn was my great grandmother Mary Haughton, who I have written about in Ordinary Women.  Her birthdate was 29th August, according to her baptism record.  Her brother, the little boy sick with fever, was named John, so perhaps Dick was a nickname used within the family.  John, Mary and their younger brother Henry were all baptised together in Painestown, Carlow on 7 March 1838.  

my great grandmother, Mary Haughton
photo from the Pilkington Family Collection


2 May 1835 - Belfast Commercial Chronicle - Belfast, Antrim, Northern Ireland 
From Irish Newspapers at

It was also an eventful year for the ‘ruffian’ identified as Henry Rainsford.  As reported in the newspapers, Henry was charged and convicted on 9th July 1835 at the Kildare Assizes.  According to the harsh justice of the times he was sentenced to death by hanging, but records show that was later commuted to transportation for life. 

16 July 1835 - Mayo Constitution - Castlebar, Mayo, Republic of Ireland
From Irish newspapers at

                                                                                                  14 August 1835 - Athlone Sentinel - Athlone, Westmeath, Republic of Ireland 
                                           From Irish Newspapers at

Henry Rainsford (sometimes recorded as Ransford) was transported to New South Wales on the ship Hive, departing Cove on 24th August with 250 male convicts on board.  At least poor Henry didn’t have to spend months or years in prison before departing.  He left behind his wife Bridget and two children – 4 year old Elizabeth and 1 year old John. I wonder how Bridget fared with 2 small children to bring up on her own?

Henry’s arrival in NSW was a dramatic one, with the Hive running aground in the sand near Jervis Bay south of Sydney during the night of the 9th December.  After making it to shore with the loss of only one crew member, the remaining travelers had to await rescue from Sydney, finally reaching their destination on 24th December.

ANOTHER SHIPWRECK. (1835, December 14). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 - 1842), p. 3. 
Retrieved July 6, 2019, from

The story of the convicts on board Hive has been told in the book “The Luck of the Irish” by Babette Smith (Allen & Unwin 2014)

From the convict records, Henry was 36 years old, married with 2 children.  He was Roman Catholic and could read and write.  His former employment was as a boatman and labourer.  His convict record appears unremarkable, achieving a ticket-of-leave on 15th April 1844, the conditions of which confined him to the district of Penrith.  This was amended on 8th June to allow him to travel between Liverpool Plains and Penrith in the service of his employer Mr. John Single.  Henry was granted his conditional pardon on 9th June 1849, after which I have found no further record of him.  He may have moved to another colony, or even changed his name to conceal his convict background.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A Picnic When Cars Were Few ... a Trove Tuesday post.

If the internet had been around 50 or 60 years ago, I’m sure my mother would have been a blogger.  She loved to write, and for a few years when we children were small, she wrote a weekly column in a national church newspaper chronicling our family life.  I intend to share extracts of those in future posts. 

In 1961, mum had an article published in the Literary Supplement which came with The Age newspaper every Saturday.  She received a cheque in the amount of £6/6/- as payment, a sum which would have been a welcome addition to the household income.  Here is her story, a recollection of her own childhood days in the 1920s-30s.


by Dorothy Pilkington

It is generally accepted as the prerogative of double chins, walking sticks and snowy hair to reflect upon bygone days.  The excusable exception is surely when one’s eight-year-old pride and joy naively inquires, “Mummy, did you live in the olden days?”  “What olden days?” I exploded, as a plate I was wiping crashed to the floor in profound sympathy.  Yes, what indeed?

Much later, when the child had long since forgotten the query, it remained with me, an impression searing into my consciousness the realisation that there is now another generation which has the audacity to relegate a 38-year-old to “the olden days” in precisely the same manner in which we regarded our parents in days of yore!

Never will my family experience the thrill of a large family picnic, held twice yearly (Boxing Day and Easter Monday, rain or shine), in horse-drawn furniture vans rattling along the Point Nepean Road to the mecca of all picnic parties of the era, at the Mordialloc Creek.

There were aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and in-laws of all degrees; everyone highly attuned in eager anticipation of the day ahead.  The flappers pioneering the “new look” of the Charleston period, giggling in innocent delight at their daring.  The mothers dressed sombrely in blouse and long skirts, with parasols and big, floppy hats with fly nets attached; the older men with their droopy moustaches and beards, wearing hairy tweeds, heavily steeped in a combined aroma of pipe tobacco and beer.

For the female members of the family the day was the culmination of many weeks’ culinary preparations.  The delightful unpacking of lunch baskets, full of delectable mysteries, never failed to make our child eyes goggle, and set our salivary mechanism working overtime.

We children were critically appraised by the various aunts, while our rate of growth since the last occasion appeared to provide them with much comparative material to aid their wholesome exclamations: “My, hasn’t she grown. She’s getting so like you, dear!”

For the afternoon activities, races of all descriptions were organised by the younger men, with the elder sitting on the sidelines contentedly drawing on their pipes and dozing in the sunshine. Huge quantities of boiled lollies were consumed by the youngsters, vying with each other for the most colorful patterns.

Sunset was the curfew for our departure, tired, sticky, full beyond measure with a sense of happiness complete; snuggling upon the laps of grown-ups in sheer exhaustion; the lusty singing of nostalgic airs to the accompaniment of a piano accordion, wafting us to sleep with the gentle clip-clop, clip-clop of the faithful horses’ shod hooves.

Curses upon the motor car, even then finding favour; spewing oil and grease upon the road until the fateful night when one of the horses slipped …

As I speed along the Nepean Highway today in all the splendour of gleaming chrome and superbly sprung luxury, keeping apace with the modern tempo of living, I hark back in wonder to those leisured days.

Would that my children could experience but one facet of the life we once glimpsed – yet so briefly.

published in The Age, 22nd July 1961.

Mordialloc appears to have been a popular destination for a day at the seaside, being easily accessible by train, or by the Point Nepean Road (now Nepean Highway).  Not only family gatherings, but Sunday School picnics, annual trade and company outings were popular, regularly reported in the newspapers of the day.

"WHERE TO SPEND A HOLIDAY." The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 
23 December 1924: 7. Web. 28 Apr 2019 <>. 

Mordialloc was also noted for its annual carnival held over the summer holiday period from 1924 through to 1939.  It featured parades, amusements, side-shows, sporting events and other activities and was a popular holiday attraction.  The history of the Mordialloc Carnival has been written about here in the Kingston Local History website.

"HOLIDAY RESORTS." The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957) 
10 January 1927: 15. Web. 28 Apr 2019 <>. 

Mum’s mother, my grandmother, was one of five daughters of John Grant and Elizabeth nee Duffy.  John’s own grandfather, also John Grant, had settled in Brighton in the 1840’s, and ran a successful carrier business.  The extended Grant family were well established in the district, with four generations all raising families there.  The younger John, and his brother William, both had carrier businesses.  It was likely company vans which ferried the families to their bi-annual picnics.  I have tried to find a newspaper reference to the accident involving the horse slipping on the greasy road, but without a specific date range it has proved unsuccessful.

Postcard of Mordialloc Creek 1919

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Somebody’s Darling …

In keeping with what seems to have become a tradition for my Anzac Day posts, I thought for this year I would use this poem which I found in an album belonging to my grandmother’s sister, my great-aunt Belle Dewar.  

We stumbled across Aunty Belle’s album only a year or so ago, tucked into a bookcase at my brother’s home.  No-one recalls ever seeing it before, and no-one knows how it got there, but it must have been passed on at some time by an older family member.  The album is dated 1884, when Belle would have been about nineteen.  It contains poems and writings which obviously struck a chord with her, as well as sketches and autograph-style entries from family and friends.

This particular poem was entered in the album on 26/09/1885 by “Madge”, who I think was the wife of Belle’s eldest brother Jimmy.  Although it pre-dates the Anzac era, the sentiments expressed are just as relevant today, highlighting the tragedy that is war.  Somebody’s Darling was written during the American Civil War by Marie Ravenal de la Coste, a nurse in Savannah, Georgia whose own fiance had been killed while fighting with the Confederate army. It was first published in 1864.


Into a ward of the white washed walls,
Where the dead and dying lay,
Wounded by bayonets, shells and balls,
Somebody’s darling was borne one day.

Somebody’s darling so young and brave
Wearing yet on his pale sweet face,
Soon to be hid by the dust of the grave,
The lingering light of his boyhood’s grace.

Matted and damp are the curls of gold
Kissing the snow of that fair young brow;
Pale are the lips of delicate mold –
Somebody’s darling is dying now.

Back from the beautiful blue-veined brow
Brushed all the wandering waves of gold;
Cross his hands on his bosom now;
Somebody’s darling is still and cold.

Kiss him once for somebody’s sake,
Murmur a prayer soft and low;
One bright curl from it’s fair mates take;
They were somebody’s pride you know.

Somebody’s hand has rested there;
Was it a mother’s soft and white?
And have the lips of a sister fair
Been baptized in the waves of light?

God knows best! He was somebody’s love,
Somebody’s heart enshrined him there.
Somebody wafted his name above,
Night and morn on the wings of prayer.

Somebody wept when he marched away,
Looking so handsome brave and grand;
Somebody’s kiss on his forehead lay;
Somebody clung to his parting hand.

Somebody’s watching and waiting for him,
Yearning to hold him again to her heart;
And there he lies with his blue eyes dim,
And the smiling child-like lips apart.

Tenderly bury the fair young dead,
Pausing to drop on his grave a tear;
Carve on the wooden slab at his head,
“Somebody’s darling slumbers here.”

Marie Ravenal de la Coste,
Savannah, Georgia 1864

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Ordinary Women ...

March is officially designated Women’s History Month, so to mark the occasion I thought I would post information about the lives of some of the women who came before me.  I’ve chosen to honour my four great-grandmothers, women from different backgrounds whose lives were typical of the times they lived in.  Although their lives were unremarkable in that context, they each faced challenging personal circumstances and lived through difficult times.  I am grateful for their lives, and for the strength and resilience passed down the generations. Here are their stories.


Jane was my maternal grandfather’s mother.  She was born at Queenstown (now St. Andrews) in Victoria, the sixth of eleven children of Abraham Postlethwaite and Ann Victoria nee Humphries.  As a child, her family moved to Tarrawarra near Healesville where her father had taken up a selection of land.  Abraham, a carpenter by trade, had emigrated from Cumberland, England as a young man.  Her mother Ann was born in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and came to Victoria as a baby with her parents in the earliest days of Melbourne’s settlement.  I’ve written about Ann’s mother in another post here: The Enterprize Voyage.

I don’t know a lot about Jane’s childhood.  She was part of a large extended family on her mother’s side.    At 23, Jane became a single mum to baby Elsie, born at home in Tarrawarra.  Three years later she married my great grandfather Charles Gardner, in Brighton where he had a blacksmith business.  On her marriage certificate she is described as a “domestic”, but I don’t know if this was paid employment or simply home duties.  

I’d love to be able to say the couple lived happily ever after, but sadly this was not the case.  Their first baby Clara was born the following year but died as an infant. The next child Charles died at age 5.  Then came my grandfather Will, followed by Vera, Emily and Arthur.  Next, another Charles who also died in infancy.  Another baby proved too much for her and Jane passed away eighteen months later, five days after giving birth to her ninth baby, a girl named Jane.  Cause of death was pneumonia and heart failure.  She was thirty-seven years old.

Jane was laid to rest in Brighton Cemetery, her grave unmarked until 100 years later, when my cousin Brendon arranged a plaque and we had a family gathering of Jane’s descendants to mark the occasion.

Left with a young family including newborn baby, widowed Charles found a young woman with a baby of her own to move in as nurse/housekeeper. The arrangement became permanent when Charles married Margaret Fielding four months later in January 1906.  Sadly, baby Jane followed her mother to the grave only four days after the marriage.  Charles and Margaret went on to have another six children together. So, with Jane’s daughter Elsie, Jane & Charles’ four children, Margaret’s daughter Olive, and Margaret & Charles’ six children, it’s clear that blended families are not a new phenomenon!


Elizabeth was my maternal grandmother’s mother.  The daughter of an English mother and an Irish father, she was the only child of both parents’ second marriage.  Born in Brighton, Victoria in 1873, when her father William was 65 years old and her mother 41.  

William was a bootmaker by trade, but was also a lay preacher and Sunday School Superintendent on the Brighton Wesleyan Circuit.  He had emigrated to Port Phillip from Donegal, Ireland, in 1840 with his wife and young baby. Another son was born soon after they arrived.  Her mother, Elizabeth Jennings, was from Atherstone in Warwickshire, England.  She and her first husband left England two weeks after their marriage, arriving in Port Phillip as assisted immigrants in 1852.  Together they had a family of seven children, although the two eldest both died as infants. Her husband died suddenly in 1868, leaving her a widow with her youngest child still a baby.

William and Elizabeth (senior) married in 1871, and two years later young Elizabeth was born. By all accounts her father was well-respected in his community, but given the teachings and customs of the Wesleyan Church at the time, one could imagine she had a fairly strict upbringing.  Her father died when she was only seven years old, and her mother when she was fourteen, leaving her in the care of her older half-sister Emily.

At nineteen, Elizabeth met and married John Grant, grandson of Scottish immigrants.  His father and grandfather had well established businesses and property in Brighton.  John was a wood & coal merchant, and the couple lived in Brighton where they raised five daughters including my grandmother Amy. 

Elizabeth died in 1940 as a result of heart disease.  She was 66 years old, and pre-deceased her husband by 8 years.  They are buried together at Brighton Cemetery.


Margaret is my mystery great-grandmother, about whom I know the least.  She was my paternal grandmother’s mother.  Margaret was born in London, England in 1835 – two years before civil registration began.  According to her Australian marriage and death certificates, her parents were John (or James) Hill and Mary (or Margaret) Chipping.  I’m inclined to go with John & Mary as listed on her marriage certificate because it was herself providing that information, rather than James & Margaret listed by her husband for her death certificate.  She also stated her father was a carpenter.

Despite extensive searches, I have not been able to locate a baptism record for Margaret, and have not been able to locate the family on the 1841 or 1851 censuses.  There are one or two possibilities, including a baptism for a child named Margaret Hill in 1836 in the London Foundling Hospital, which needs further investigation. Nor have I been able to locate a marriage for her presumed parents.

Margaret came to Australia as an assisted immigrant in 1856, arriving in Port Phillip (Geelong) on the ship Arthur the Great.  She was aged 20, could read and write, and her occupation was housemaid.  I wonder what trepidation or excitement she must have felt about voyaging alone across the world to a new life in an unknown land.  On arrival, she was employed by a Mr. Anderson of Darneville for a period of three months at wages of 25 shillings.  I haven’t been able to find out if she extended her employment there, or moved on to another position.  

In 1859, Margaret married James Dewar in Geelong.  He was a Scotsman who was working as a quarryman.  The couple spent the next 11 years in the Geelong area where their first six children were born.  James then became involved in the lime-burning industry and they moved across to Rye on the other side of the bay where he was employed in the kilns.  My grandmother and her youngest brother were born there. 

By the mid-1870’s James and Margaret had moved again, this time to Waratah Bay to a new lime-burning venture where James was employed as manager.  This was an isolated location where contact in the early years of the settlement was only by sea.  It must have been quite a challenge for London-raised Margaret, coming from the comparative bustle of gold-rush era Melbourne and Geelong to adapt to this isolation, bringing up her children and educating them herself until a part-time school was established.  There is more about life at Waratah in the posts I wrote about James Dewar and Walkerville.

The only “memory” we have of Margaret comes from a grand-daughter, my father’s older 1st cousin, who wrote some memories of her childhood at Waratah in which she says her grandmother always wore a little lace cap.

Margaret passed away in 1898, after an illness of several days with bronchitis.  She was 63 years old. My great-uncle Fred wrote in his diary about hearing of the death of Mrs Dewar, and riding around the bay to pay his respects.  Margaret was buried in the little bush cemetery on the cliffs at Waratah, where her husband James joined her nine years later.


Mary was my paternal grandfather’s mother.  She was born near Athy, county Kildare in Ireland, the second of six children born to Alfred Haughton and Henrietta nee Osburne.  The Haughton's were part of a large Quaker family, although it doesn’t appear that Alfred and Henrietta were practicing Quakers themselves.  Alfred owned the Ardreigh mill on the River Barrow just outside the market town of Athy, so Mary and her siblings were born into quite a privileged lifestyle.  

Her education would most likely have been at home, provided by a governess, although it is possible she may have attended a nearby Quaker school for some lessons.  Like most girls of her class, her education would have included art , music and embroidery.  A sketchbook belonging to Mary’s sister Sarah Anne is still in the family, and some of her sketches can be seen on this page.

At 23, Mary married Thomas Pilkington of Ennis in county Clare.  Earlier that year, her brother John had married Thomas’s sister Maria.  The Pilkington’s were minor Anglo-Irish gentry and Thomas acted as a land agent for the vast Connyngham estate.  He also served as Magistrate and JP on the local court circuit. 

After their marriage, Mary moved to her husband’s family home Waterpark, in Ennis.  The couple had nine children and unusually for the times, all survived childhood.  Mary’s life as the Lady of a small estate would have revolved around housekeeping, directing the servants, supporting her husband in entertaining, and a regular round of visiting local gentry. She would have also been involved in “good works” distributing charity to the poor.

This lifestyle came to an end for the family with the sudden death of Thomas in 1884, dying in his sleep from heart disease.  Eldest son Tom inherited his fathers estate as was normal for the times, however it transpired that Thomas had been living beyond his means for some time, and left a large debt with minimal assets.  Although the eldest two sons were already established with their own careers at this time, Mary still had three unmarried daughters aged 18 – 23, and four young sons between 7 – 17 years to bring up.  Thomas’s aunt Charlotte describes his passing in her journal, writing  “poor Mary and nine children, in an agony of grief”.
Following her husbands death and the change in her circumstances, Mary’s own health suffered.  She was 48 years old and only six months later, despite seeking treatment in Dublin, she died from an abscess in her kidney caused by a kidney stone.  According to the doctor on her death certificate, the duration of her illness was six months.  Mary was interred in a family grave at Mt Jerome Cemetery in Dublin.  Possibly due to the transport costs involved, she was not reunited with her husband in his resting place in Ennis. 

Monday, 25 February 2019

The Shack …

Nearing the end of February, and the official end of summer – although hopefully we will still have several more weeks of summery weather.  This has prompted me to think back to summers past, and childhood memories of “The Shack” which was the base for our summer holidays at Sandy Point.

Sandy Point beach 2018 ©kaypilk 

My father grew up at Sandy Point, on the shores of Waratah Bay in South Gippsland, where his father with two brothers and their cousin, had settled in the 1890’s after emigrating from Ireland.  The four families had grown up together and remained close.  My father’s path in life took him away from the land, and his family property had been sold after the death of my grandfather.  Several of his cousins remained on their family farms, and others returned regularly for holiday visits, so it was natural for my parents to keep the connection.

One of my earliest memories, when I would have been about 3 or 4 years old, is of crawling through tea-tree scrub with Mum & Dad as they checked out the advantages and disadvantages of various blocks in the new Playground Estate, recently developed on the dunes separating the beach from the farmland behind.  Eventually, they chose a block for the view it provided over the farmland, with Shallow Inlet and the South Gippsland hills beyond.  They named this property "Kiltrellig" in memory of the old Pilkington family summer home in the west of county Clare, Ireland.

Then came construction of "The Shack", built by Dad out of Volkswagen packing cases.  This would have been a cheap source of timber to use for the floor and exterior cladding.  The interior of the frame was unlined, but covered with bitumen-impregnanted brown paper sheeting to cover any gaps and reduce damp.  The Shack was built on what Mum referred to as "the leafy lane', which had been the old track connecting the original family homes before the roads were made.

Entertaining relatives at The Shack under construction c1961-2
Me on the deck chair in front.
                                                                                                        Pilkington Family Collection ©

While the Shack was being built, our family stayed with relatives at ‘Gyndahnook’, one of the original homes.  A highlight for me was taking the big brass gong off the wall and ringing it to let Dad know down the paddock that meals were ready.
Brass dinner gong in the kitchen at Gyndahnook
                                                                                                      from Pilkington family collection ©

Although small, the Shack provided all the comforts our family of seven needed. It was a  single room construction, cleverly designed with bunks built in at either end, and shelving units dividing the sleeping areas from the living area. The eight bunks meant that one of us could have a friend come to stay.  Mum used large posters to provide a colourful display on the walls. These posters were put out by Victorian Railways or TAA (airline) to promote tourist destinations.  I seem to recall there was one for wildflowers in WA, another for skiing at Mt. Beauty, and one of the memorial cross at Mount Macedon, among others. The image below is representative of the style of posters of the times.

Victorian Railways, and E.H. Turnor Studio, Artist. Wilson's Promontory, Victoria, Australia [picture] / E.H. Turnor., 1930.

There was no electricity at Sandy Point at that time. We had gas lighting, kerosene fridge, tank water and a little pot-belly wood stove for heating when we needed it. Mum produced our meals on a small gas hotplate and griller, or outside on the barbecue she had made herself from old farm implements. Bathroom facilities were non-existent. Hot water came from the kettle. The toilet was a “long drop” dug by Dad, and enclosed in a hessian frame outside. We cleaned our teeth in a cup of water and washed when required in a plastic tub. Once a week or so, we would head to the caravan park to shower, putting sixpence into the metre for hot water. This was a communal effort – one shower for the girls and one for the boys - as Mum wanted to get the most out of her sixpences.

Our days were spent at the beach, exploring the bush, or with cousins on their farms.  Day trips and picnics to nearby locations, depending on the wind direction.  East wind - off to the Prom, where the beaches would be sheltered.  Westerly - around the coast to Walkerville which would be similarly sheltered.  My memories are of sunburn, insect bites and stubbed toes, all par for the course of an Australian bush summer.  Shoes were unheard of - we trod those gravel roads, hot beach sands and tracks through the scrub in our bare feet without complaint.  We never gave a thought to snakes.  Dad always said we didn't need to worry about snakes because they were more scared of us than we were of them.  I doubt it, but whatever, we rarely saw them even though they must have been plentiful.

At night, we stayed out until dark.  Later, we would visit with relatives, or play scrabble or card games around our little table in the Shack.  Then off to bed, drifting off to sleep to the sound of the surf or the wind through the trees, and the smell of burning mosquito coils in our noses.  Dad could pinpoint the moment the tide turned just by listening to the sound of the surf.

Cleaning out The Shack in 2016 ©kaypilk

In reality, the time we spent in The Shack was only about 7 or 8 years, before Mum & Dad built a more substantial home.  But to me as a small girl it seemed like a lifetime.  After the house was built, the Shack became the domain of my older brothers.  It then served as a storage shed, garden shed and more recently a home to multiple species of wildlife.  The Shack is still there, although now in a state of disrepair.  From time to time we have had half-hearted plans to rejuvenate it, but for the moment it remains as a reminder of the many happy memories created within its walls.

The Shack 2016  ©kaypilk

Thursday, 18 October 2018

James Dewar …

                                   James Dewar 1829-1907

James Dewar
                                                                 from Pilkington Family Collection

My great-grandfather James Dewar was born in the village of Kincardine, on the Firth of Forth in Perthshire, Scotland on 20 April 1829. He was the seventh of eight children born to James Dewar, a baker, and his wife Margaret Abercrombie.

In times past Kincardine was a prosperous sea port and major ferry point for crossing the Firth. In the early 1800’s it comprised major ship-building yards and associated industries, salt-mining works, a distillery and collieries.  In 1819 Kincardine village had a population of 1200, although many more people would have lived in the surrounding area.

By 1841, James senior had moved his bakery business to Dunfermline, ten miles away in the neighbouring county of Fifeshire. Only James junior and his younger brother Alexander were still living with their parents.  Later, the family moved again, to the village of Calderbank in Lanarkshire, where Margaret Abercrombie had come from. The 1851 census recorded James (senior), Margaret and Alexander living at Pettigrew’s Land, Calderbank.  James was still listed as a baker, while 19 year old Alexander was employed as a puddler in the local coal mining industry. There is no record of great-grandfather James with the family at this time, and I have been unable to conclusively identify him in the 1851 census in Scotland.

The circumstances surrounding James’s emigration to Australia are subject to speculation as I have been unable to establish with any certainty when and why he arrived. His death certificate states his time in the colony as 51 years in Victoria, giving an arrival year of 1856.  The closest match I have found is 20 year old James Dewar who sailed from Glasgow on the Brooksby, arriving in Port Phillip on 14 October 1852.

The 1850’s were the height of the Gold Rush to Victoria, and it is reasonable to assume the goldfields would have been the destination of most single young men arriving in the colony at this time. In 1856 there is a James Dewar on the Electoral Roll listed as having a Miner’s Right at Golden Point near Castlemaine. The following year, a newspaper report of a land sale at Castlemaine records James Dewar as having purchased 28 acres on Golden Point Road for the sum of £36.10.0. There are newspaper listings of unclaimed mail for James Dewar, held at the GPO Melbourne between 1852 and 1854, and at Castlemaine Post Office between 1855 and 1857.  Although this scenario would fit with what we know about James’ life, there is no certainty that this is the same man.

Golden Point diggings 1852
Ham, Thomas, and D. Tulloch. GOLDEN POINT, MT. ALEXANDER. [picture], 1852.

The first conclusive evidence of James in Victoria is his 1859 marriage to Margaret Hill in Geelong.  English-born Margaret arrived in Port Phillip in 1856, giving her occupation as housemaid.  According to their marriage certificate, James was a quarryman. They settled in the Geelong area, where six children were born between 1860 and 1870.  At the time that daughter Rosa was born in 1866, James was a ratepayer in nearby Batesford.

James was a member of the Corio branch of the Sons of Temperance Society between 1867 and 1869.  This was a brotherhood movement founded to support its members in resisting the evils of alcohol, spread the temperance message and provide assistance in times of distress.

By 1871, the family were living at Tootgarook on the other side of Port Phillip Bay, where James was appointed to the Primary School committee.  In 1872 a seventh child was born, and in 1874 my grandmother Evelyn completed the family.  On both birth certificates, James’ occupation is Limeburner. Lime was an important ingredient for Melbourne’s building trade, and lime kilns were established in the area from the 1830’s.

In 1874, reports appeared in the news about a potential site for development of a lime industry at Waratah Bay on Victoria’s southern coast.  By 1878 James was appointed manager of the new works, a position he held until his death. The settlement of Waratah, later renamed Walkerville, grew around the kilns on the foreshore, with access only by sea in the early years.  (I have previously written about the history of Walkerville in another post.) Additional civic duties James performed were Post Master, Electoral Registrar and Assistant Inspector of Fisheries. Throughout his time at Walkerville, James held the contract for maintenance of the wharf and jetty lights, being paid an additional £15 per annum.  Family stories suggest he also acted in the capacity of Undertaker. Margaret undertook teaching the children of the settlement until a teacher was appointed.

In a memoir of her life at Walkerville, grand-daughter Hope remembers her grandfather’s broad Scots accent and sometimes lurid language as he supervised the loading of bagged lime into the ships at the jetty.  The loading required meticulous attention because of the combustible nature of lime should it come into contact with water during the voyage to Melbourne.  Hope also recalled James spending time in his extensive vegetable garden behind his home.

In his later years, James had a leg amputated after a wound became infected, a potentially fatal condition in the years before antibiotics.  On the 4th October 1907, the men working on the jetty noticed smoke billowing from the bedroom window of the manager’s house. They hurried back to find the old Scotsman unconscious on the floor. Apparently he had been lighting a candle and suffered a stroke.  The burning mattress was dragged onto the beach, where Hope remembers it smouldering all day.  James lingered for 6 days, passing away on 10th October 1907.

James was interred beside Margaret, who had died in 1899, in the cemetery on the hill above the bay where he had lived and worked for 30 years. His estate valued at £2438 was divided equally between his eight children.

Dewar graves - Walkerville Cemetery 
                                                                                                        © Pilkington Family Collection

Today, Walkerville is a quiet and picturesque place, popular in summer for boating and fishing. A few holiday homes dot the hillside behind the remains of the kiln chimneys, and a single timber pillar remains of the long jetty which once curved out into the bay. The wall containing the fireplace of James Dewar’s home has been incorporated into a retaining wall along the roadside leading to the beach.

This work was originally written for the "Introduction to Family History" unit, University of Tasmania's Diploma of Family History.  A fully referenced PDF of this biography is available on request.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Doondahlin …

Amongst the treasure trove of memorabilia belonging to our extended family is the following picture, painted on a thin sheet of masonite.  It is labelled “Doondahlin” and bears the artists initials of ‘A.E.’.  An identical picture hangs on the wall at a cousin’s beach house.  These pictures would have been a reminder of home to my Irish relatives.

Doondahlin, date unknown, by 'A.E.'
 from Pilkington Family Collection

Doondahlin was one of the homes associated with my family back in Ireland, and which in present times is a ruin.  I had no idea who ‘A.E.’ might be, as the initials did not relate to any known family. 

The painting  was brought to mind again a few months ago when I received an email from a man in Ireland, seeking information about Doondahlin for a local history group.  So back to the family archives I went, to see what I could find out.

Doondahlin was the summer home of the Keane family of Beechpark, in Ennis, county Clare, Ireland.  It was built for my 3x great-uncle, the infamous Marcus Keane, probably in 1854.  An entry in his sister Charlotte’s diary in October of that year reads:  “Marcus is building a fine lodge on the cliffs at Kilbaha”.  Kilbaha is a small village by the shore of the Shannon Estuary on the Loop Head Peninsula in Clare.  These West Clare lands were the ancestral home of the Keanes (formerly O’Cahane, or Ó Catháin in Irish), and previous generations of the family had been well-respected in the area.

Doondahlin, sketched by Sarah Haughton in 1859

from Pilkington Family Collection

Marcus inherited his father’s land agency business, raising himself up the social and financial ladder by marrying the daughter of a wealthy absentee landlord, and taking on the management of his father-in-law’s extensive estates.  He became notorious during an Gorta Mór (The Great Famine) for his ruthless evictions of poor tenant farmers and the destruction of their homes. 

Doondahlin took its name from an ancient Irish hill fort, the remains of which were located on the same cliff top.  Dun Dahlin was one of four hill forts along this stretch of Loop Head Peninsula, the origins of which are based in legend.

Ring-Forts in the Barony of Moyarta, Co. Clare, and Their Legends
by Thomas Johnson Westropp

Part I.—From Loop Head to Carrigaholt
(Clare Library)

Marcus Keane considered himself something of a scholar on the subject of Irish antiquities, and wrote a book published in 1867 titled “The Towers and Temples of Ancient Ireland: their origin and history discussed from a new point of view”.  Perhaps it was this interest which led him to choose this site for his ‘fine lodge’.

In his book “The Houses of Clare”, Hugh Weir describes Doondahlin as a plain L-shaped, 2 storey house, with 3-bay front, and 4-bay wing along the east side, and a single-storey 3-bay wing on the west side.  According to this newspaper advertisement, there were 3 sitting rooms, 7 bedrooms and dressingrooms, 3 servants rooms, plus kitchen, pantries, and closets. I’ve also been told that the construction of the building included a layer of turf stacked between the double brick walls to act as insulation – probably necessary protection from the Atlantic gales blowing across that exposed cliff top.

Freemans Journal 2 June 1873
from Irish newspapers at

The house was used as a summer residence for Marcus, his wife Louisa and their children.  After Marcus’s death in 1883, Doondahlin passed to his son Marcus junior, who owned it until it was destroyed by fire in September 1921.  Marcus the younger’s daughter Helen has written some memories of her family’s life in Clare, and she writes of vividly remembering being at Beechpark one morning when a message was brought to say Doondahlin had been burnt the previous night.  This was during the War of Independence, during which the countryside was engulfed in trouble between the Republicans and the British troops including the dreaded Black and Tans. Doondahlin was targeted presumably in retribution for the actions of Marcus Keane during the previous century.
Marcus Keane filed a claim for compensation to the Irish Grants Committee in 1929.  I haven’t seen his claim myself, but I am told that it outlines a previous attempt at firing Doondahlin a few months earlier, which was thwarted by the attention of the caretaker.

So, back to the picture.  While searching for information to pass on to my Irish correspondent, I did a google search for “Doondahlin” and was surprised to find the following in an on-line art catalogue – a third copy of the very same picture, together with another of the view from Doondahlin across the Shannon to Mt. Brandon in Kerry.  Both pictures were surrounded by ‘folk art frames of oystershell’.  The pair of pictures had sold for $100 just a few months previously in October 2017.

The Australian Art Sales Digest, published by John Furphy Pty. Ltd., Melbourne, Australia.

According to the catalogue, the mystery ‘A.E.’ was an Irish/Australian artist by name of Annie Eldridge. Written on the rear of this picture was ‘Mrs. Eldridge, Rosehill, Buffalo Creek, South Gippsland’.   Buffalo is in the same district in South Gippsland where my family members from Ireland settled.

After some more investigation, I came up with two possibilities.  The first was Annie Eldridge nee Farrell, an Irish woman from county Galway, who was married to a William Eldridge. The couple ran a hotel in Wodonga for many years.  This one was promising, because a Farrell family were long-standing friends of my extended family in Gippsland, and the Eldridge family of Rosehill had a son named William.  It all seemed to fit perfectly – except that the Rosehill William Eldridge was married to someone else, and this Annie didn’t fit into the Farrell family we knew.  Additionally, I could not find anything linking this couple to South Gippsland.

The second possibility was Annie Eldridge the sister of William of Rosehill.  Although this Eldridge family were of English origins, not Irish, Annie married into a family with Irish connections.  She was born in 1866, making her a contemporary of my grandfather and his brothers, and she was definitely in the right location to be acquainted with my family.  I’m still unable to connect her to Doondahlin though, so not sure what opportunity she would have had to do the painting.  

All three pictures shown here - painting, sketch and photograph - are taken from a similar vantage point on the shore of Kilbaha Bay in front of what was Kiltrellig Lodge, home of my Pilkington family.  The Pilkington sisters who lived there took in paying guests to help make ends meet.  It is not unreasonable to imagine that IF Annie Eldridge had travelled to Ireland she may have sought accommodation with the family of her friends in Australia.

The ruins of Doondahlin, 2007
© K. Vincent 2007