Edward WINTER witnesses the hanging of three bushrangers

In my last blog post, Edward WINTER, Mary REIBEY and the $20 note , I spoke of the wonderful legacy Isaac BATEY left in the form of ‘Notes, 1840-1850‘—recollections of European colonial pioneers in Sunbury, Victoria and surrounds—available to be viewed in the State Library of Victoria (SLV). This post deals with another reference BATEY makes to Edward WINTER, my great great grandfather and his father in law. Edward ‘accidentally’ witnesses the public hanging of 3 bushrangers in Melbourne in 1842. I say ‘accidentally’ as it appears Edward happens across the scene rather than aiming for a front row seat. A relief for his great great granddaughter—me—and his many other descendants.


It was the second public hanging to be held in the Port Phillip District. Three bushrangers, ELLIS, JEPPS and FOGARTY, were hanged on 28 June 1842 outside the partially constructed Melbourne Gaol (now known as the Old Melbourne Gaol).

The event attracted a large crowd. Edmund FINN, the journalist and author writing under the pseudonym, Garryowen, reported that there were at least 7000 people in attendance..

…and with shame be it spoken, a very large preponderance of women and children (Garryowen, p.397).

Other reports say 2000 onlookers. Whatever it was, it’s amazing to think people wanted to watch at all.

It was also reported that the onlookers used the scaffolding of the partially constructed gaol as a grandstand.

Isaac BATEY’s ‘Notes’

According to a ‘memo’ left by Isaac BATEY’s father, Martin BATEY, Edward got mixed up in the crowd as he was coming into Melbourne with a ‘horsedray’.

Below is the extract describing the reference as written in the chapter entitled:

1842 June 28th. Bushrangers hanged-there were 3 of them

(See, also, the transcript following)

Extract from ‘1842 June 28th. Bushrangers hanged – there were 3 of them’ in Notes by Isaac Batey ‘Pioneers of Sunbury’ 1907. Courtesy of State Library of Victoria (SLV). http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/MAIN:Everything:SLV_VOYAGER1640276


…. These would be the three bushrangers, because Mr Edward Winter, then at Heidelberg, coming into Melbourne with a horse dray before he knew what was happening, got mixed up with the crowd. To show the horribly case-hardened nature of a woman in the assemblage I must speak plain. Dogs when hanged micturate, human beings do the same it seems, because Winter noticed water dripping from the bottoms of the mens trousers. The woman unquestionably a factory bird noting the state of affairs exclaimed ‘They ought to have pissed before they came to be hanged’…

Indeed. Charming.

The extract proffers some questions/explanations…

  • how common was it to hang a dog in those days?
  • ‘micturating’ — I’ll let you work that out,
  • ‘factory bird’ — I suspect this was a term used for a female convict originally housed in a female factory. Below is a description of female factories of the 1830s in Van Diemen’s Land, courtesy of the University of Tasmania website:

During the 1830s, those who entered a Female Factory were divided into three classes. At the bottom in the Third or Crime Class were women serving secondary punishment for offences such as insolence, drunkenness and being absent without leave. In the Second or Probation Class, women worked at lighter tasks and enjoyed a less meagre diet. At the top in the First or Assignable Class were women waiting to be sent into private service where settlers gave them room, board and clothes, but no wages.

  • ‘Edward Winter then of Heidelberg’ — This may refer to the time Edward was the farm manager/overseer of Lucerne, the property in Alphington, or, it may refer to another property a little further north—one I haven’t found yet. See blog post What’s in a name?

The above account is the only detail BATEY recorded in his ‘Notes’ of Edward’s experience of the hangings…perhaps that was all Edward bothered to tell anyone or, perhaps it was just a quirky little anecdote BATEY found amusing enough to be worthy of some posterity.

Whatever the reason, it triggered a curiosity in me: who were these bushrangers, why were they hanged and what did others report?

Who were these three bushrangers?

The three were originally four. The fourth member, John WILLIAMS, was shot dead at the time of the capture.

The youngest of the bushrangers was Charles ELLIS. He was 19 years old. ELLIS was born in Surrey, England into a very poor family. He was uneducated. He worked his passage to Australia as a ship’s cook, arriving in Sydney. He then worked his way down to Melbourne and became a ‘bullocky’.

Daniel JEPPS was 27 years old. He was Born in Boston USA and was known as ‘Yankee Jack’. (One of the captors was known as ‘Hopping Jack’. I wonder what prompted that alias?). In contrast to ELLIS, JEPPS was educated. He was a seaman/whaler. After arriving in Sydney he jumped ship (literally) at the Heads of Port Phillip Bay as the ship was leaving to return to America. He also made his way overland to Melbourne.

Martin FOGARTY was 26 years old. He was born in Templemore, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. FOGARTY migrated to Australia with John WILLIAMS. They worked together on the same station. WILLIAMS inducted FOGARTY into the gang.

ELLIS and JEPPS met up with FOGARTY and WILLIAMS and, all together, they commenced their raiding and looting. The capture of the three and the fatal shooting of WILLIAMS happened only seven weeks into their spree.

Reports of the bushranging escapades, the shoot-out and capture

The gang of four firstly raided properties in the Dandenong district. They then moved on to the Plenty river area, north of Melbourne. Eventually, there was a ‘shoot out’ on Campbell Hunter’s property in Whittlesea, between the police and the bushrangers. It’s said to have lasted for an hour.

There were several articles published in the newspapers of 1880 recounting memories of this period of time:

Thomas NAPIER, a resident of Essendon, wrote about his experience of being robbed by the bushrangers nearly 40 years earlier (Argus, 11 August 1880, p. 7.):

…I was, I believe, along with another, the first to be stuck up by them…

The robbery took place ‘on the Dandenong Road’. The gang took a watch and £2 from Napier’s companion:

They then made us ride before them for half a mile, then called on me to dismount and give up my horse to Fogarty, leaving me an old scrubber. Before leaving they gave us a drink of rum, and told us to go on our journey, threatening to shoot us if we gave information.

Governor LA TROBE put together a group of men from the Melbourne Club to help in the pursuit of the bushrangers as there were not enough police. They were sworn in as special constables.

Constable George VINGE, the leader of the band of ‘real’ police’, also wrote about his recollections of the events of 1842. The article was entitled, Bushrangers in the Olden Times and it was printed in The Argus on the 6th August 1880, p.6. It’s interesting to note that less than forty years earlier than this publication was considered ‘Olden Times’. I suppose it wasn’t too far fetched as there would have been rapid growth and change in the colony in the ensuing years.

VINGE declared:

…I was the leader of the party that captured them…

He reported that the bushrangers had ‘stuck up and robbed’ at least 6 properties in the Plenty as well as others ‘on the road’.

The bushrangers were eventually taken by surprise. They set up ‘a determined resistance’ in a hut. After an hour-long shoot out, WILLIAMS was dead and one of the captors, named FOWLER, had been shot in the face.

FOGARTY surrendered first. A short time later JEPPS came out of the hut. He asked the captors…

…if any of our party had been shot and coolly stood beside the hut lighting his pipe with banknotes, the remnants of which were picked up afterwards.

JEPPS asked his captors to let him go. On denial of this he made another request:

Gentlemen rather than be taken to Melbourne and made a public show of on the gallows, shoot me.

This request was also denied. VINGE then made his move…

…I walked up and handcuffed him, and upon searching him found £10 wrapped up in his neckerchief.

Meanwhile, Hopping Jack and another had entered the hut and after a short while ELLIS came out and surrendered. ELLIS had a go at VINGE but VINGE ‘knocked him down’. ELLIS requested to see ‘his mate Williams’. The captors agreed and took him over to the hut where Williams lay…

When he saw the dead body of Williams he (Ellis) knelt down and kissed it.

VINGE handcuffed the three prisoners to each other and ‘mounted them on separate horses’.

The captors and their charges arrived in Melbourne on a Sunday. The news of their capture had already reached the town…

…hundreds of people met us on our way and to show how great was the excitement people rushed out of the churches leaving the preacher alone in the pulpit.

The Trial and Hangings

Judge John Walpole WILLIS (1793-1877). Courtesy of the SLV. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/273193

On 11th May 1842, ELLIS, FOGARTY and JEPPS were charged by Resident Judge WILLIS with ‘shooting with intent to kill at Whittlesea on 29 April 1842’. Shooting with intent to kill was a capital offence in the colony at the time.

Jepps turned to religion after the trial and assumed a leadership role in preparing his companions for their fate. Jepps largely kept his composure on the gallows and gave a speech exhorting people not to turn to crime – “I trust you will all take warning by our untimely fate, and avoid those crimes which have brought us to this end…” He then blessed the hangman, who shook hands twice with all three victims….Jepps’ last words were: “God bless you and your poor soul. Farewell.”  (Poultney, p.4)

Edmund Finn (Garryowen) 1819-1898.  Courtesy of SLV. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/290970

According to Garryowen, Melbourne was ‘hero-mad’ in the interval between the condemnation and execution:

…and the air, so to speak, rang with the praises of the five gallant volunteers who so bravely brought them to justice.

It was agreed at a public meeting ‘to present the volunteers with an address and a case of pistols each, as well as to entertain them at a public dinner’.

The prisoners were visited by their various religious pastors. They became very penitent and asked to see one of their captors, Mr Fowler, the man who was shot. The request was granted. On meeting with the captor…

…they dropped on their knees and asked his forgiveness, which he freely gave, and kindly shook hands with them on leaving.

It was revealed that if they hadn’t been caught they were intending to murder Judge WILLIS. On the day of the hangings, ‘a large cart, with three rough coffins placed in it, was driven up to the gaol door’. The handcuffed and capped prisoners ‘mounted the cart, and each with his back to the horse, sat down upon his coffin!’

Garryowen infers astonishment at the sight :

“Swells” from the neighbourhood of the town, and from all the country for miles around: and as before, well-mounted smartly dressed settlers, with top boots and cord breeches, cantered about as if out on some equestrian spree. It appeared like a great gala celebration instead of the punishment of three guilty fellow-creatures.

It’s good to know ‘our Edward’ was not one of the “swells”.

Following the hangings, all three men were buried outside the Old Melbourne Cemetery. This site is presently covered by The Queen Victoria Market.

And for anyone interested in ‘Early Melbourne’…

Below is a wonderful depiction of Melbourne in 1854. It was drawn by the artist Nathaniel WHITTOCK from sketches done by a G Teale. I’ve circled the site of the (Old) Melbourne Gaol. As you can see, the gaol was on the outskirts of town and no doubt even more distant from the hubbub in 1842.

For a better view of the numbered landmarks and the corresponding legend the picture can be accessed and downloaded from the SLV website. Click here.

The City of Melbourne, Australia. Drawn by Nathaniel Whittock (artist) from sketches taken in 1854 by G Teale Esqr. Items of interest are numbered and a legend is printed below the picture. Courtesy of SLV. Accessed online 17/4/17. (The (Old) Melbourne Gaol has been circled by the author). http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/106370


Most of the information regarding the three bushrangers was taken from the following resources:

Finn, Edmund (Garryowen), The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, 1835-1853, Fergusson and Mitchell, Melbourne, Australia, 1888.

Poultney, Trevor, Victims of the Rope: Executions in Port Phillip & Victoria 1842-1967, Trevor Poultney, Melbourne, 2016.

And, if you’re interested in Judge Willis, the first judge of Port Phillip, read on:

The Resident Judge of Port Phillip Who was Judge Willis? Blog by Janine Rizzetti.

The Judge Willis Casebooks Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

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Edward WINTER, Mary REIBEY and the $20 note

Isaac BATEY (1839-1928) left an invaluable memoir of recollections of life in the pioneering days of Sunbury, Victoria, and its surrounds. Several of his stories relate to Edward WINTER (1812-1869)—his father in law and my great great grandfather. The stories are surprising, exhilarating and previously unknown—to my present day clan anyway. They’re what every family historian secretly hopes for; an insight into a forebear’s character. Here’s one such story—a connection between Edward WINTER and the woman on the Australian twenty-dollar note, Mary REIBEY (1777-1855).

2017 Mary REIBEY (1777-1855) on the Australian $20 note.

Who was Mary REIBEY (1777-1855)?

Mary REIBEY, the rather dour looking woman above, was an astute Sydney businesswoman who operated as a trader in Sydney in the early 1800s. She was added to the $20 note in 1994.1

According to the entry for Mary REIBEY in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Mary came to Australia from England as a convict. She was convicted in 1790 for horse stealing at the age of 13. At the time of her arrest, she was disguised as a boy, going by the name of James Burrow, her real name being Molly (or Mary) Haydock. She was transported to NSW for 7 years, arriving in Sydney in 1792.

In 1794, she married Thomas REIBEY (1769-1811) in Sydney. Thomas was a free man who had previously worked for the East India company. The couple had seven children together. They owned property on the Hawksebury River and in Sydney. Mary ran a store with goods from India and China which her husband procured on his travels. They built a house and warehouse in Macquarie Place, Sydney and named the establishment, Entally, after the Calcutta suburb where Thomas spent much of his boyhood.2

Thomas became the business partner of an Edward WILLS (1778?-1811), an emancipist. Together they established a boat building business.

♦ Edward WILLS…remember that name for later…

Entally House, Tasmania

1974 Entally House, Hadspen, Tasmania. Author’s private collection.

Entally House in Tasmania may ring a bell with some of you. It’s a beautifully preserved home in Hadspen, 13 km from Launceston. The Entally estate was established in 1819 by the three sons of Thomas and Mary REIBEY.

In 1974, I visited this house as part of a school tour to Tasmania. I fell in love with it—as I did with most of Tassie. I loved the old furnishings and the imaginings they stirred. I ‘saw’ the family sitting around the luscious dining room table sharing their day. I think this is when I started to live in the 1800s.

Back to Mary…

By 1811, Mary was a widow. Thomas REIBEY and his partner, Edward WILLS, died within a month of each other in 1811. Mary was left with seven children, the youngest being only five months old. Despite the demands of a young family, she continued the trading exploits of her husband and his partner and opened another warehouse in 1812, this time in George Street, Sydney. She became a major shareholder in the new Bank of New South Wales and a governor for the Free Grammar School.

Mary REIBEY died in 1855. Five of her seven children predeceased her, one of them being Celia REIBEY.

♦ Celia REIBEY…remember that name too.

Who was Isaac BATEY (1839-1928)?

Isaac Batey was the son of Martin BATEY, a pioneer in the Sunbury area in Victoria.3 Martin BATEY acquired land on the east side of Jackson’s Creek, known as Redstone Hill, almost opposite the property of Edward WINTER, who was situated on the west side of Jackson’s Creek, in Digger’s Rest. No doubt there were ‘meetings’ down by the creek as Isaac married Edward WINTER’s eldest daughter, Lydia WINTER (1843-1899) in 1877.

I first discovered the writings of Isaac BATEY when I was searching for any mention of Edward WINTER in the digitised newspapers accessed through TROVE. BATEY’s reminiscences, including his father’s recollections of the pioneering days, were serialised under the heading ‘The Far-Off Has-Been’ in the Sunbury News of 1903/1904. They turned out to be a rich source of the history of the pioneers, including several mentions of his father in law, Edward WINTER.

A further search for BATEY’s writings revealed an original manuscript in the State Library of Victoria (SLV). It’s identified in the SLV catalogue as ‘Notes, 1840-1850’ by Isaac Batey. There’s a copy on microfilm too. The SLV catalogue entry for the ‘notes’ reads:

Accounts of the life of pioneers in the Keilor, Sunbury and Werribee areas: “Further notes on early days on the Keilor and Werribee plains…with work-painted portrait of “Big Clarke” (H7913); a leather bound volume entitled “Pioneers of the Sunbury District” (172325 and also available on microfilm at MSM 506)

The catalogue entry describes the author, Isaac BATEY, like so:

Isaac Batey was a Victorian settler and grazier in the areas around Sunbury, Werribee and Keilor. He kept sheep on this land and is known to have made an inventory of native birds in what is now known as the Organ Pipes National Park, just outside Melbourne.

There’s something magical about seeing someone’s writing in the flesh and touching their original journal, so I ordered the ‘Notes’ and spent a delicious hour or so in the beautiful Manuscripts Room of the SLV soaking up BATEY’s musings. His reminiscences are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ‘goings on’ of the early days of the colony, especially around the district of Sunbury.

Edward WINTER and ‘Mrs BLANK’

The following extract from BATEY’s notes entitled, ‘Pioneers of the Sunbury District’ caught my interest. It describes the interactions between his father in law, Edward WINTER, and Edward’s employer in Sydney, a ‘Mrs Blank’, and some fellow employees (pages 382-384). Transcribed as written:

…The late Edward Winter whose tenacity is not to be doubted emigrated to Tasmania, from thence to better himself he went to Sydney where he obtained a situation as farm manager to a lady who had been transported. She had married well, when Winter entered her employ one of the assigned men said to him  ‘If Mrs Blank begins bullying you, give it her, that’s the way to beat her’. She opened on one day with ‘Who are you Sir?’ Winter responded with ‘Who are you. Madam when, I came to this colony I brought my character in my pocket’. Seemingly she admired the overseers plain speaking, for on her return to town she sent as a present a ham and a bottle of rum…

It seems that Edward gained the respect of his employer, but the interaction doesn’t throw a good light on the manner in which she, Mrs Blank, treated her employees—some of them anyway! The continuing extract perpetuates the supposed poor treatment and gives a hint as to the identity of Mrs Blank…

…Judging from what I have heard some masters were hard on their assigned men but by Winter’s account his mistress must have believed in the lash, because she said, ‘What Mr Winter, you have been here a month and not a man flogged’. There were little shortcomings that he winked at, one was loading firewood, down to Sydney at night, sell the wood, and with the money buy rum or other luxuries. The fellows would be back in time to go to work, and it seems the hands worked all the better in being allowed A little licence. The boatman said to Winter in speaking of Mrs Blank ‘Many a time I thought of upsetting the boat to drown her- but I can’t swim. It would be unfair to give Mrs Blank’s real name beyond saying that she is supposed to be the heroine of Cabbold’s novel, bearing the title of Margaret Catchpole.

The last sentence was a teaser. It was too good not to follow up. I investigated. It turns out that the novel, Margaret Catchpole, written by Rev. Richard Cobbold in 1845, was rumoured to be based on the life of Mary REIBEY.4

So, BATEY, in his quest to not ‘name names’, indirectly informed the reader of Mrs Blank’s true identity: she was the highly successful Sydney businesswoman, Mary REIBEY.

Figtree Farm, Hunter’s Hill, Sydney.

Mary REIBEY owned a farm—her country retreat—in Hunter’s Hill which she named Figtree Farm owing to a large Port Jackson fig tree nearby. The land was bought in 1835.

My great great grandparents, Edward WINTER (Parish of Hunter’s Hill) and Honoria TANCRED (Parish of St Lawrence), married on 28 Jan 1840 in the Parish of St Lawrence, Church of England after Edward arrived in Sydney in Dec 1839. The family folklore as per some recently discovered WINTER cousins is that Edward pursued Honoria to Australia from Ireland after their families tried to keep them apart because of religious differences, Edward being Protestant and Honoria, Catholic. At first, Edward went to Tasmania looking for her then returned to Sydney where he ‘met her in the street’. A romantic story good enough for a movie!

The witnesses to the marriage were Henry HOVENDEN of Sussex Street, Sydney, possibly Edward’s uncle, and William JONES of George Street, Sydney (the same street as the church), relationship unknown. Both living in central Sydney.

Perhaps Edward WINTER managed the Figtree Farm before taking up the position of manager at Lucerne, the farm in Alphington, in the Port Phillip District (Victoria was yet to be separated from NSW)? Edward and Honoria had left Sydney by April 1841 because their first child, Margaret, was born at, Lucerne. Also, the 1841 census of ‘New South Wales’ places Edward at Lucerne.

The Google Earth view below locates Figtree Farm at the site that is now known as Reiby Road, Hunter’s Hill and the church, St Laurence, where Edward and Honoria most probably married. Edward, living in the Parish of Hunter’s Hill according to his marriage certificate, was either living near the farm or on it if my supposition of him being the manager is right.

Now…remember Edward WILLS, Thomas REIBEY’s business partner?

Well, the reason I asked you to remember Edward WILLS is that I suspected there was a connection between him and the Thomas WILLS who owned the farm Lucerne in Alphington where Edward WINTER was later employed (about 1841) as the manager. See  What’s in a Name?

I checked the lineage of  the WILLS family.

Mrs Celia Wills daughter of Mary Reibey, ca. 1820 – watercolour on ivory miniature. Courtesy of Collections, State Library of NSW.

Sure enough, Edward WILLS had a son named Thomas WILLS (1799-1872) and his details fitted with the Thomas WILLS who married Celia REIBEY (1803-1823), one of the daughters of Mary and Thomas REIBEY. Celia died not long after the birth of their first child. Thomas then remarried and bought land in Alphington in 1840 and named the farm, Lucerne.5

So, Edward WINTER and Thomas WILLS both had connections to Mary REIBEY; Edward by employment and Thomas by marriage to her daughter and by his father’s business partnership with Mary’s husband. Edward and Thomas could well have met in Sydney through this association. And maybe, Edward, being a trusted employee of his mother in law was encouraged by Thomas to move down south to Lucerne and manage his farm.

All supposition…

So there you have it…

By way of a hint by a cheeky memoirist in a carefully preserved, publicly available memoir I’ve been able to gain some insight into not only my great great grandfather’s character but also into the character of the highly respected, colonial businesswoman, Mary REIBEY.

Much to my relief, Edward WINTER, comes across as a ‘good’ man: caring, respectful, non violent, not intimidated by bullies and a believer that if you treat your workers fairly they’ll reward you with productive work.

On the other hand, Mary REIBEY comes across as a bit of a tyrant: a bully and a believer in physical punishment. An interesting fact is that in 1817, Mary was found guilty of assault upon one of her debtors. She, apparently, wasn’t averse to a little rough stuff.

As with any family history research there’s always some trepidation when delving into new information. You hope you don’t find out something bad about your forebear, that he/she was cruel or dishonest or just not likeable. But, fortunately, in this case, my forebear Edward WINTER sounds like a decent bloke, a relative to be proud of.

There are other recollections in BATEY’s notes regarding Edward WINTER but I’ll leave them for another time…


1.Reserve Bank of Australia. http://banknotes.rba.gov.au/australias-banknotes/banknotes-in-circulation/twenty-dollar/

2.Dictionary of Sydney. Entry for Entally House. http://dictionaryofsydney.org/building/entally_house

3.Fords of Katandra. Entry for Thomas Place BATEY, Isaac BATEY’s brother. http://www.fordsofkatandra.com/index.php/ancestor-chart-sp-8908/42-thomas-ford/pink-descendants/92-example-layout-page

4.Australian Dictionary of Biography. Entry for Mary REIBEY. http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/reibey-mary-2583

5.Dorothy Rogers, A History of Kew. Kilmore, Vic., 1973, pp. 3-5.

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Sitting next door to Alice

Amongst Mum’s repertoire of schoolgirl memories was the oft-repeated story of Alice and her lollies. Alice sat next to Mum in the one and only classroom, consisting of Grades 1 to 8, at St. Joseph’s Convent School, Cora Lynn, West Gippsland.

The story went something like this:

“Alice’s parents had a shop in Nar Nar Goon and nearly every day she’d bring in a bag of lollies,” Mum said. “We used to open up our desk lids and eat the lollies behind them so the teacher couldn’t see.”

“Did you ever get caught?” I said.

“No. Never.” Mum said, with a hint of pride.

The Alice story usually segued into the story about wet boots…

“Once, I got punished for walking in the puddles and getting my boots sopping wet. I had to stand at the back of the class.”

And then, on to the horse stories…

Little Meena, was a one time racehorse, and Mum’s favourite…. “I loved getting up to a gallop on her”;

and, the not so favourite old horse… “There was a cranky old horse that used to jib. Wouldn’t go to school, only back home. So that’s what we had to do”;

and, the time her sister, Joyce, fell off the back of the horse Mum was riding… “I wondered why she wasn’t talking. I looked around and she wasn’t there. I turned the horse around and went back the way I came and there she was lying on the ground, crying. Her arm was really badly broken. Mum and Dad had to come home from the (Melbourne) Cup”.

I loved these stories. All of them painted a picture of schooldays that were so different to mine. Growing up in suburban Melbourne in the 1960s, I didn’t have to be able to ride a horse to get to school. I could walk. It wasn’t far. There was one similarity though. My school friends and I had a cheeky little note passing habit that went on under our desks and right under the teacher’s nose. I don’t believe we were ever caught. There was a sense of fun in getting away with it.

Back to Alice…

According to Mum, Alice was a chubby girl, the inference being, she ate a lot of lollies. Over a lifetime of hearing the story, I imagined Alice was a very chubby girl, one who perhaps struggled to fit behind the desk. I also imagined that the two of them would be stifling giggles as they scoffed the likes of  jelly babies and aniseed balls behind the open desk lids. There was never any mention of coercion by either party; it appeared to be a mutual scoffing.

Why am I recalling this story?

I’m recalling this story because a photo appeared in my inbox recently that lends weight to the Alice story. Not that I ever doubted Mum but it made the story more real. My cousin has been going through some old photos her mother, Mum’s sister, had left to her. She’s been very kindly scanning and emailing them to me. Some I’d seen before and others I hadn’t. This one, I hadn’t:

c1925 St Joseph’s Convent School, Cora Lynn, West Gippsland. Mum (Teresa Bernadette ‘Berna’ WINTER (1917-2010) and Alice are highlighted in black and white).

It’s a photo of unidentified children in the classroom at St Joseph’s Convent School at Cora Lynn in the 1920s. (The highlighting of the two girls in black and white is my doing).

I instantly recognized Mum—the girl with the short bob and fringe—as she’d identified herself to me in a school photo taken around the same time (see photo below), possibly taken on the same day.

Seated next to Mum in the classroom photo is ‘a chubby girl’. Could this be Alice? If it is, which I suspect is the case, she’s not quite as chubby as my mind’s eye had imagined her to be, but she does have a bigger frame, shall we say, than Mum. And looking at the desk the two girls are sitting at I can see it’s the type where the lids open up, perfect for hiding behind.

I wonder if Alice had a stash of lollies in her desk this day? Perhaps they’d already scoffed them or they were planning to once the photographer had left.

I can’t help but smile as I look at this pair. They look so delightfully innocent. But I know their secret and I get the feeling that if I wink at them they’ll wink back. They haven’t as yet, but they might after I’ve had a couple of wines.

It is eerie to see the story materialize in a photo, especially an image that’s now over ninety years old. Not something I ever imagined would happen but I’m glad it did as it’s kinda cute.

c1925 St Joseph’s Convent School, Cora Lynn, West Gippsland. Mum, Teresa Bernadette WINTER (1917-2010) (circled); Roy WINTER, top row, second from left (Mum’s brother); and Nance COGHLAN, 2nd top row, 4th from right (Mum’s sister-in-law). There’s a clearer photo of this group on my first blog post  98 today…..well, she would have been

Having another look at the photo above, I can now identify Alice as the girl standing to Mum’s left. It’s nice to finally meet you, Alice, after all these years. And thanks to my cousin for sharing her photos with me.

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How do we solve a problem like Maria?

Back in the 1990s, when I first started researching the family history, I innocently thought that my migrating forebears came to Australia and settled in one place. I soon discovered that, more often than not, immigrants to Australia in the mid 1800s often spent years finding their way; making money, losing money, battling disease, battling nature, battling each other. And eventually, if they were lucky and prosperous enough, they bought a parcel of land and then settled down. My forebears were no different.

A prime example of my lack of genealogical experience was the interpretation I made, or nearly made, of an inscription on the headstone marking the grave registered to my great great grandfather, Luke COGHLAN, in the Melbourne General Cemetery. The inscription reads:

Front of headstone. RC H19. North Avenue, Melbourne General Cemetery. Image taken 22 Nov 2015. Author’s Private Collection.

Erected by


of Northcote

in memory of his daughter


who departed this life

November 14th 1857

Aged 11 years & 6 months.

There are no particulars on the headstone indicating Luke is buried there but the register says he is.

But, was this Luke COGHLAN ‘of Northcote’ really my great great grandfather?

I was inclined to think ‘no’, as I’d only ever heard my dad talk about the COGHLANs ‘of Bullarto’, near Daylesford—never ‘of Northcote’. Although, I did know that my Luke did have a daughter named Maria. She was listed as one of Luke’s children on the passenger list (see below). But unfortunately, I couldn’t find her death certificate. If I had, it could have potentially told me her parents’ names and their place of residence, thereby, verifying that I had the right Luke and that he did reside in Northcote in the 1850s.

So, on arriving at what I perceived as a bit of a dead-end, I placed the grave in the ‘too hard basket’. There just wasn’t enough information to pull it all together. It sat there for a number of years. But, eventually, with the increased availability of certain resources, I was able to confirm that Luke ‘of Northcote’ was indeed my Luke and that Maria, his daughter, died of a disease that is common today.

Here’s the process and what I found…

The search for Luke COGHLAN’s final resting place

The first step was to obtain Luke COGHLAN’s death certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) Vic:

31 July 1871 Death certificate of Luke COGHLAN. Courtesy of BDM Vic. Reg. No. 6496.

The record states that Luke died on 31 July 1871 in ‘Glenlyonshire’. He died of bronchitis and cystic disease, at the age of 66. He was buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery on the 2 August 1871.

The Victorian Places website gives a description of Glenlyonshire:

Glenlyonshire was proclaimed on 12 December 1865. Its area of 310 sq km included the timber towns of Bullarto and Lyonville, Drummond, Coomoora and Yandoit.

This, more than likely, placed Luke in Bullarto which ‘fitted’ with the family stories.

Other details of verification: ’18 years in Victoria’, therefore, arriving in 1854. This also ‘fitted’ with the arrival details.

(The COGHLAN family arrived in Adelaide, South Australia on the ‘Sir Edward Parry’ on 25 March 1854 after leaving Plymouth 90 days earlier on Christmas Day 1853. The family unit consisted of Luke 37, his wife, Ellen 34 and their children: William 18, Anne 16, John 15, James 13, Patrick 10, Maria 7 and Catherine 5. Michael, the eldest, and another son, Luke, were not on this ship. They did come to Australia but I haven’t, as yet, found their arrival details. Another son, Daniel, was born in Australia-according to his death certificate)

Luke’s children, at the time of his death, as listed on his death certificate were: Michael 34, William 33, John 30, James 28, Patrick 27, Luke 26, Maria (deceased), Daniel 18, Catherine (deceased), Ann (deceased).

It’s interesting to note that by the time Luke died in 1871 all three of his daughters, Maria, Catherine and Anne, had predeceased him.

Luke’s age at death is recorded as ’66’. If this is correct, he must have put his age down on migrating; he was more likely to be 47 on arrival in Australia rather than 37.

Death of Luke’s daughter, Catherine COGHLAN

In the 1990s, I searched for the death certificates of all the daughters. I was only able to find one, and that was Catherine’s:

1 January 1859 Death certificate of Catherine COGHLAN, 8 yo, daughter of Luke COGHLAN and Ellen COGHLAN née Navin. Courtesy of BDM Vic. Reg. No. 396.

Catherine died on New Years Day, 1859, in Pentridge. I was a little perturbed when I read this. The only Pentridge I knew was the prison. What was an 8 year old doing in a prison?

A moment of enlightenment came a few months ago when I was doing some research in the Genealogical Society of Victoria (GSV). One of the volunteers overheard me relaying the sad story of Catherine dying in Pentridge. She politely interrupted and said, ‘Do you know that Coburg was once known as Pentridge?’

And with that, another assumption was put to bed.

I felt relieved for Catherine. I’m glad she didn’t die in a prison. At the same time, I was kicking myself for not having read up on the history of the suburbs. Leafing through Richard Broome’s book, Coburg: Between Two Creeks, published in 1987 would have enlightened me much sooner. A lesson learned.

Also, if I had have known about the change of suburb name, I might have given more credence to the notion that her father, my Luke, was indeed ‘of Northcote’, considering the close proximity of the two suburbs, Coburg and Northcote.

(On Catherine’s death certificate, the cause of death looks like ‘trauma’…I could be wrong. If anyone can enlighten me on a possible alternative, please let me know. I’ve checked for inquests for Catherine but there aren’t any recorded).

Back to the search for the location of Luke’s grave…

Still in the ’90s, I checked the Register of burials in the Melbourne General Cemetery compiled by the GSV for the location of Luke’s grave.

I identified Luke COGHLAN’s grave as RC H19. (RC=Roman Catholic). The site of the headstone.

A search for other COGHLANs in the Register revealed that Luke’s daughter, Maria, was in fact, in the same grave as Luke. It also revealed that they were not alone. There were four other occupants.

The occupants of Grave RC H19:

  • Maria COGHLAN    bur. 14 Sep 1857,  11 years old
  • Catherine COGHLAN    bur. 2 Jan 1859,  8 years old
  • William L. COGHLAN    bur. 13 Mar 1870,  2 years old
  • Luke COGHLAN    bur. 2 Aug 1871,  75 years old
  • Ellen COGHLAN    bur. 20 Apr 1874,  4 months old
  • Victoria P. COGHLAN    bur. 22 May 1878,  3 months old

The burial details of ‘Catherine COGHLAN’, date and age, coincided with those found on the death certificate I had found for Luke’s daughter, Catherine.

Then who were the other three occupants of RC H19?

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I discovered the identities of the three children, ‘William L.’, ‘Ellen’ and ‘Victoria P.’. Using the free index search on the BDM Vic website which became available last year, I determined that all three were the children of Patrick COGHLAN and Mary Teresa O’BRIEN. Patrick, being Luke COGHLAN’s son.

So, in regards to Luke COGHLAN, the occupants of RC H19, besides himself, were two of his daughters, and three of his grandchildren.

Locating Luke ‘of Northcote’

The 1856 Electoral Roll for Sub-district: Pentridge, District: East Bourke. State: Victoria records Luke COGHLIN as a ‘farmer’ on a leasehold, Goodwin’s Paddock, ‘near Northcote’. (Reference: ‘Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980’; Ancestry )


With the introduction of digitized Australian newspapers by the National Library of Australia as part of the website, Trove, in 2008, I was able to find additional information about Luke in this area by way of a couple of advertisements.

The first advertisement, placed in the ‘Lost and Found’ section of the Argus, 6 December 1856, Luke offers a reward for the return of two horses that had either been stolen or had strayed from Goodwin’s Paddock. Horse stealing was rather prevalent in those times.


The advertisement locates Luke on Goodwin’s Paddock, between ‘Pentridge’ and Plenty Road. The ad also mentions the Pilgrim Inn.

The Pilgrim Inn, is known today as the Croxton Park Hotel on High Street, Thornbury. (High Street was once known as Plenty Road). It was the first hotel in Darebin.  You can find out more information about the history of the hotel on the Darebin Libraries’ Heritage website. Click here.

In 1859, another advertisement, once again, places Luke COGHLAN on Goodwin’s Paddock. This time Luke is calling for ‘wood splitters’.

So, during this time, the mid to late 1850s, Luke appears to be doing quite well financially but he has had plenty of sadness: the early deaths of two of his children, Maria, aged 11, in 1857 and Catherine, aged 8, in 1859. A tough start to a new life in the colony.

(Another daughter, Ann, may well have died around this time too. I have been unable to find her death certificate).

I became intrigued by Goodwin’s Paddock. Could I locate it?

The search for Goodwin’s Paddock

The probable location of Goodwin’s Paddock is Allotment 139, Parish Of Jika Jika. The land was bought by Thomas Goodwin, a Melbourne storekeeper, from John Carey in 1849. The Allotment, bounded by Merri Creek, Bell St, High Street and Miller Street is now part of the suburb of Preston. Sources: Darebin Heritage-Oakover Hall and the Newsletter of the Friends of Merri Creek, ‘Merri Growler’, Aug 2015-Oct 2015

I’ve highlighted the area on a present day Google street map. See below:

Just recently, I took a walk along the Merri Creek trail, near Goodwin Street.

18 Dec 2106 Merri Creek trail, near the end of Goodwin Street, Preston. Author’s private collection.

It’s a beautiful tranquil walk. The paths are well maintained and the gums offer some shade along the way. It was hard to believe I was in the middle of suburbia. At one point I heard some ‘babbling’. It reminded me of the Irish babbling I recorded and posted in Sights and Sounds of Ireland, Part 3

I wonder if the babbling of the Merri Creek reminded the COGHLANS of their homeland? It certainly reminded me of the soft babbling I’d heard in Ireland. Although I don’t think the Merri Creek was always a soft babble. It sometimes became a raging torrent, no doubt causing all kinds of headaches for the new farmers. But they were there because of the rich alluvial soil, perfect for market gardening, and the new migrants had to be fed.

Here’s a short recording of the babbling Merri Creek as I heard it on my walk:

Some additional information confirming Luke COGHLAN’s burial in the Melbourne General Cemetery

Once again, Trove was my hero.

I found a couple of Funeral notices in the Argus relating to Luke COGHLAN. One is an invitation to the friends of Luke, and the other is an invitation to the friends of Luke’s son, Patrick, the licensee of the Curzon Hotel, Hotham (now North Melbourne), to follow Luke’s funeral:

1871 Funeral notices for Luke COGHLAN of ‘Kangaroo Creek, near Daylesford’ in the Argus. To be buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery. Accessed through Trove.

The funeral was to move from Spencer St station at 1030am on Wednesday, 2nd August 1871 to the Melbourne General Cemetery.

The first notice gives the final abode of Luke: ‘of Kangaroo Creek, near Daylesford’. The creek runs from Bullarto to Malmsbury. I was in the right territory. I had the right Luke.

But what about the elusive Maria?

Finding Maria…

I have just recently found Maria’s death certificate after trying several variations of her name on the search page of the BDM Vic website. She turned up as ‘Mary COGHLAN’, right age, right year, right parents:

12 September 1857 Death certificate of ‘Mary’ COGHLAN of Northcote, Merri Creek. Image courtesy of BDM Vic Reg. No. 5725.

There’s a few minor discrepancies between the details on the headstone and those on the certificate but there’s enough corroborating information to confirm that this is the Maria COGHLAN of the headstone.

Discrepancies: the Month of death is different by 2 months and the day is out by a couple of days. Luke may have erected the stone years after Maria died and memories of dates can get a little fuzzy. I’ll also give some leeway to the maiden name of her mother, recorded as, Navan. In giving the information, William, Maria’s brother, being a young informant (21 yo), who couldn’t write (signed with an X) and speaking with an Irish accent, may have been misheard by the Registrar. Consequently, ‘NAVAN’ may have been heard instead of  NEVIN, and ‘Mary’ may have been heard instead of Maria.

Her father, Luke’s address is ‘Northcote, Merri Creek’.

So, the young 11 year old Maria died of the flu. A disease which still kills the young, the elderly and the vulnerable today. It must have been devastating to lose his daughter only 3 years after the family’s arrival in the new colony and especially after surviving the 3 month sea voyage from the other side of the world.

Additional confirming information came in the form of a funeral notice for Maria published in the Age and the Argus:

It’s interesting to note that it says ‘…his late eldest daughter Maria…’. Perhaps Anne, documented as being five years older than Maria on the passenger list, had already died by this stage.

A visit to the Melbourne General Cemetery

I recently returned to the cemetery to check out the headstone. The last time I’d seen it was about 20 years ago, in the rain. I remember being very excited on finding it, especially in such great condition. This time, in glorious sunshine, I was pleased to see it was still in really good condition.

For those interested in seeing the headstone, it is easily accessible. It’s on North Avenue, not far north of the Catholic Chapel and on the same side as the memorial to Elvis.

If you have trouble finding it, or you get lost, you can visit the Front Office, near the main entrance and they will help you locate the grave site. The image below gives you a better idea of its location. It’s the sandstone headstone in the middle of the picture next to the railing around the Moriarty grave in the foreground. The bluestone building in the background is the Catholic Chapel.

RC H19 Melbourne General Cemetery. Author’s private collection.

The back of the headstone faces North Avenue. There is a biblical inscription on this side. It is a fairly common Catholic prayer for the dead of the time. See caption of image below:

Back of headstone: It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins. 2 Mac XII 46. RC H19 Melbourne General Cemetery.

The dedication of the headstone to Maria infers that Luke held his eldest daughter in very high esteem, and that by erecting a lasting monument he was ensuring her life was honoured and that she would be remembered. Finding the headstone certainly led me on a chase to find her story.

Have a safe and Happy New Year everyone! See you back on the blog in 2017.

Thanks for your faithful reading, liking and commenting throughout 2016. Very much appreciated.

Cheers, Marg

Posted in Coghlan, Nevin | Tagged , | 12 Comments

My Blog is turning 1!

Today is my blog’s 1st birthday!

Time for a review…

Site Stats:

Since going online on 28 October 2015, there’s been 24 blog posts, 5,249 views, 1799 visitors, and 183 comments.

The blog post with the most views?

Back to the Main Drain-Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona. A car trip around the Koo Wee Rup Swamp with my Aunty Muriel and my cousin Howard, revisiting the places inhabited by the WINTER and COGHLAN families.

Greatest number of views in one day?

91 views on 8 November 2015.

This was most probably a consequence of being added to the blog roll of GeneaBloggers an online family history blogging community started by Thomas MacEntee in the USA.

The country with the most views?

The blog has been visited by people from nearly every corner of the globe, but most of the views have come from:

Australia…4,331 views

USA…337 views

Brazil…185 views (This happened in the early days and caused me a little angst. I thought someone was trying to hack me but nothing eventuated.)

United Kingdom and Ireland were next on the list followed by about 15 other countries.

Sharing the blog on social media certainly bumps up the views.

The blog post with the most comments?

What’s in a Name? This was my first foray into locating places that no longer exist today. I learnt that early Victorian place names were often the names of landmarks, such as, the names of properties rather than towns as we know them today.

What have I learnt about the blogging process?

Technically, it’s a steep learning curve but persistence pays off…and watching a few video tutorials also helps.

I‘ve learnt how to embed Google maps into the WordPress platform. This has enabled me to show a visual display of the local geography, roads, rivers, etc, surrounding the place in question as it looks today.

I‘ve learnt how to overlay historic parish maps onto the same area as it looks today using Google Earth. This is fabulous. It enables you to see how the layout of areas has changed and it gives you an idea of the size of former properties.


The constant challenge is to make the stories informative, accurate, concise and at the same time entertaining.

Reminding myself to always think laterally, not to assume b follows a. To remember it’s sometimes necessary to find 2 or 3 items of corroborating evidence before jumping to conclusions.

Surprising Contacts?

A member of the Greta Heritage Group in Victoria contacted me via the blog. She had found a document tucked away in a second-hand book she’d bought in a clearance sale. The document pertained to a William WINTER of Diggers Rest. Was I interested in it, she asked?

I sure was. She generously posted the document to me. It was a thrill to handle a document my great great grandfather had handled even if it was about money he owed….more of that later.

Another surprise contact was from the author of a book I had based a post on regarding the drinking habits of one of my forebears: Some ‘hard’ drinking in the WINTER line. The author’s name is Patrick J. O’Connor and his book is called, ‘All Worlds Possible: The Domain of the Millers of Coolybrown’. On May 27 2016, he commented,

I am delighted to discover the use to which my book was put. I presented a copy to the National Library of Australia in 1999, when sojourning briefly in Canberra. The letters of Edward Miller are a wonderful evidential source.

Patrick O’Connor

Another contact was from Ray Gibb, a ‘guru’ on the history of Tullamarine. He gave me some historic details and some helpful ideas to enable further research on Edward WINTER and the property known as ‘Springs’.

There’s also been contact from distant cousins here in Australia and in Ireland and England. It’s funny how a smattering of common genes can promote an instant connection. It’s been very gratifying to share information with them.

The regular contact with the LEE relatives in the USA has been very special too. Our swapping of information and photos has led to some wonderful insights and some conundrums, yet to be figured out…

What are the advantages of blogging the family history?

Without a doubt, the flexibility and scope of the medium. I can correct and/or add to stories as new information arises. I can reach out to a wider audience, both locally and internationally than I can with a book. I can share photos and embed movies.


Pressing the Publish button…this always makes me nervous. Am I sure the details are correct? Are there any living relatives that might be exposed who don’t want to be exposed? (I’m ever mindful of protecting the living and their identity).

The possibility of being hacked. Hopefully, I have enough security to prevent this from happening. The satisfaction I get from blogging tends to dispel this fear.

The joys?

The joy of writing. I love it especially when you reach that magical moment, when the words just seem to leap off your fingertips and onto the screen and you look up and it’s 3 in the morning. Fabulous!

It’s also a joy and a relief to finally get the family history ‘out there’, out of my head and into yours.

Another joy has been becoming part of a Facebook group called Australian Local & Family History Bloggers. This is a very supportive group of like-minded bloggers who share ideas and knowledge and discuss problems. The group has provided a venue for the family history bloggers to post blog entries on Facebook. The page is called Australian History Bloggers Fan Page.

The highlight of my research?

There are many highlights, but the one that springs to mind is finding the headstone of  my great grandfather’s brother, George Williams LEE, in Sale cemetery.

I’d spent a lot of time researching this previously unknown young man who emigrated from London to Australia as a gold seeker and ended up running for parliament. Unfortunately, his young life was cut short by a fatal kick from a colicky horse. He died in 1864 at the age of 32. After reading all the reports of his speeches in the newspapers I felt as if I knew him so it was a thrill to see the headstone and to pay my respects.

My favourite online sites…

TROVE Love it. This is an invaluable site. Not only can I check the Australian newspapers for my forebears movements, but I can look up the availability and location of books, documents, photos etc.

Victorian Places A simple and beautifully crafted website detailing the history of towns, cities, suburbs, villages and settlements in Victoria with a population of more than 200 people.

Births, Deaths & Marriages, Victoria An obvious inclusion. The instant gratification of downloading a certificate after paying online is very appealing and very addictive.

State Library of Victoria SLV Great resource for anything Victorian. The online catalogue is especially useful for downloading old photos and parish maps which add colour and interest to the blog.

Public Record Office Victoria Great online resource for wills and probate records in Victoria.

Deceased Online Central Database of UK burials and cremations. I used this site to find the LEEs’ burial place in Nunhead Cemetery, London.

Australian Cemeteries Another wonderful resource for finding headstone inscriptions and photos.

Australian Dictionary of Biography  A great resource for finding out about ‘significant people in Australian history’.

National Film and Sound Archive You never know what you’ll find here. This is where I found the film of my dad at the Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. He only appears for 4 seconds but it was a thrill to see him on film.

National Archives of Australia I use this site to download personal war service records.

Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Medals, Biographical database, War History.

Of course subscriptions to Ancestry and Find My Past are very useful. Not forgetting Family Search which is free.


More of the same. I haven’t even touched on some of the forebears. I think this blog may go on for years yet.

Relaying some stories from 2014 of walking in my forebears’ footsteps in Ireland.

Making plans to walk in more footsteps both here in Australia and in Ireland and England. I need to walk in Dundalk, Belfast, London, Bradford and possibly the Carribean!

Thank you!

Thanks to anyone and everyone who’s graced these pages over the last 12 months. I hope instead of boring you to tears I’ve left you with a slight smile, a little more knowledge or just some satisfaction that you’ve helped out a soon to be ‘old girl’ with indulging her in her passion.

And a big thanks goes to Mum who would have been 99 today. If it wasn’t for the time I had caring for her, which in turn allowed me the space to explore other interests, I may never have ventured into the wonderful world of writing.

Cheers, Marg.

Posted in Blogging, Coghlan, Lee, Winter | 16 Comments

John COGHLAN, a gold town and Puckapunyal

Once again, as in a previous blog post, What’s in a Name?, I was bamboozled by a Victorian place-name containing the word ‘Spring’. This time it was ‘Spring Creek’, the wedding venue of my great grandparents, John COGHLAN (c1836-1904) and Ellen QUINLAN (c1843-1905) who married there in 1869.


23 July 1869 Certificate of Marriage of John CO(U)GHLAN, 33 yo, ‘storekeeper’, born Co. Galway, IRELAND and Ellen QUINLAN, 23 yo, ‘domestic servant’, born Co. Tipperary, IRELAND in Spring Creek, Victoria. Vic BDM Reg No. 2883. It’s interesting to note that John’s signature includes a ‘u’ in COUGHLAN. It’s possible, and probable, that the ‘u’ was dropped in Australia.

Here’s a reminder of how the couple (highlighted) fit into my dad’s (John Leo COGHLAN) family tree:

18-9-2016-pedigree-chart-for-john-leo-coghlanThe details of how the couple met and the lead up to how they came to be residing in Spring Creek are unknown. In fact, as far as the family folklore goes, I don’t know any ‘stories’ about this couple; they’ve been lost in time. Also, they predeceased my dad’s birth (John died in 1904 and Ellen in 1905), so he didn’t ‘know’ these grandparents, and I never heard him mention them.

So, to find out anything about them I turned to resources, such as, the newspapers of the time and the vital records (birth, marriage and death certificates). With findings from these resources and a little supposition, I have determined something of their life in Spring Creek.


‘Spring’ was a popular inclusion in many Victorian place names, such as, Spring Plains, Springvale, Spring Hill, and so on. It’s not a surprising inclusion as the name acts as a marker of a water source—a necessary commodity for the colonial pioneers in setting up successful agricultural and mining pursuits and for the establishment of lasting communities. Unfortunately though, for the family historian, the preponderance of one name, such as, Spring, makes it difficult to determine a firm location, especially since the names changed over time.

In my early years of family history research, I presumed—wrongly as it turned out—that Spring Creek was in the Daylesford area. It’s not an unreasonable assumption as the COGHLANs settled in Bullarto, a town near Daylesford, which in turn is in the same locale as Hepburn Springs. However, with the gathering of more details of the COGHLAN clan, the definitive location of Spring Creek eventually revealed itself and it wasn’t near Daylesford.

We are very lucky in Victoria as our early registration records are very detailed. A requirement of registration of births was the naming of the marriage place of the parents. In regards to the birth certificates of John and Ellen’s children, the marriage place was documented as Spring Creek, Graytown, or both. A check on Victorian Places confirms that Spring Creek and Graytown are one and the same.


The exact location of Graytown is described in the book titled, Bridging the Gap: Shire of Goulburn 1871-1971 by Joyce Hammond. The author devotes a chapter to ‘The Graytown Story’:

Formerly known as Spring Creek, Graytown is situated among the hills north of Kilmore and approximately 21 miles from Seymour, between Nagambie and Heathcote. Now part of Goulburn Shire, Graytown was formerly part of McIvor Shire, and once boasted its own governing body. It was proclaimed a borough on 9th August 1869…Nothing is left now of its former glory except Spring Creek…(page 74)

The town was named after Moses William GRAY, a passionate land reformer, ‘who was a Parliamentary member for the nearby Rodney electorate from 1860 to 1864’. (Graytown, Victorian Places)

At the time of John and Ellen’s marriage in 1869, Spring Creek was a thriving gold mining town. Gold was discovered there in October 1868 by Albert Corbett and Co. News of gold always travelled fast and the area was soon swarming with gold fossickers.

Graytown Courtesy of SLV

‘Graytown formerly known as Spring Creek’. Courtesy of State Library Vic (SLV) http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/279614

And with the influx of miners comes bankers, storekeepers, hoteliers and traders of all descriptions. It’s reported that the population swelled to between 20,000 and 30,000 during the town’s height.

By all accounts, Spring Creek/Graytown was a pretty rough place. An article in the Leader, dated Saturday 17 July 1869, written by ‘a special correspondent’ recounts the short history of the Spring Creek diggings, eight months after the discovery of gold there:

During its short career it has borne a very doubtful character, both morally and commercially: two suicides, one murder, garotte robberies, thefts and burglaries innumerable, and insolvencies by the dozen bear proof that those who looked upon it with grave suspicion were perfectly justified in so doing (page 22)

The ‘special correspondent’ believed the lack of water in the initial stages of the rush— meaning the gold could not be separated from the ‘washdirt’— contributed to the bad character of Spring Creek. Later in the report, the ‘special correspondent’ gives a more positive opinion of the new town:

Amongst the civilising influences at work may be mentioned two newspapers-one weekly, the other bi-weekly. The schools are well attended. The Church of England are about building a substantial church. The Presbyterians have purchased a building, and the services of a resident minister have been secured. The Roman Catholics have erected a substantial and handsome edifice, and the Wesleyans have also provided themselves with a respectable place of worship (page 22).

According to Hammond, ‘day after day endless numbers of drays loaded with household furniture continued to arrive and women and children were making their presence pretty fast’ (page 75).

Obviously, the new town was a good place to set up a store.

A search through Trove turned up a reference to John COGHLAN, a storekeeper, in the McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser, dated 15 September 1871. Apparently, one of his customers, a G.P. GREENSHIELDS, had not paid up:


This little dalliance gave me some more info about John COGHLAN: he was a butcher as well as a storekeeper and his store was in MAJORSTOWN. Where was that?

Another search through Trove revealed an article in the same local newspaper as above, the McIvor Times and Rodney Advertiser, reporting on the naming of MAJORSTOWN:


The Major’s Line Reefs were in the same general area as Graytown. The Major Creek being a tributary of Spring Creek. Victorian Places explains the Major’s Line in the details of the McIvor Shire:

The Major’s Line refers to wheel-tracks left by the exploring party led by the New South Wales Surveyor-General, Thomas Mitchell, on his return journey from Victoria’s Western District in 1836. He passed through the future shire (McIvor) during 5-7 October, travelling north-east. Overlanders such as Charles Ebden and Alexander Mollison came to the district in 1837, using the ‘line’ as a guide.


As a ‘gold town’, Graytown was short-lived. In 1870, just a couple of years after its birth, a flood devastated the town, water filling the mine shafts. It seems ironic when prior to this, water had been so scarce they were going to haul it in from the Goulburn River. Fortunately, the flood came in the early hours of the morning so there was no loss of life in the mine shafts but the excess of water put a halt to the mining and people gradually moved away from the area.

John and Ellen’s first child, William Luke COGHLAN (1870-1892), was born in Graytown on 29 July 1870. I’m not sure if this was pre or post the flood:


29 July 1870 Birth of William Luke COUGHLAN, first child of John COUGHLAN, ‘storekeeper’, born Clonfert, Galway, IRELAND and Ellen QUINLAN, born Clugulla (sic), Tipperary, IRELAND in Spring Creek/Graytown. Vic BDM Reg No. 19538.

The next child, Ellen, was born in Bullarto (b.1872) as were the rest of their children. I could propose that the flood, the desertion of most of the population and ongoing debts payable to John, ended his business in Graytown, prompting a move by the young family to a more prosperous location.

Despite these issues, another reason the young couple left may have been the death of John’s father, Luke COGHLAN, in Bullarto on 31 July 1871. John and his now growing family may have taken over the running of the Bush Inn (store/hotel/accommodation) previously run by his father (I’ve yet to confirm Luke had set up the Bush Inn at this stage but he was living in Bullarto and he had been a storekeeper in Newbury, not far from Bullarto).


Summary of children born to John COGHLAN and Ellen QUINLAN. William Luke COGHLAN was the only child born in Graytown, the rest were born in Bullarto (near Daylesford),Victoria.


As is my wont, I like to walk in my forebears’ foot steps.

I drove to Heathcote. I tried their very nice rolls in the bakery for lunch, walked the main street with its noticeable accent on advertisements for local wines, and visited the information centre. There, I found a small pamphlet on Graytown. It was basically the information I had already read in Joyce Hammond’s book. The helpful informer told me that most people come in there to ask for directions to the wineries not to the old diggings.

I then headed for the Heathcote – Nagambie Road. It was a good road cutting through the tall, grey blue, ironbark forests. There was a sign for Graytown in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. I turned into ‘Corbett Street’, the main street of the old Graytown. A wall of trees confronted me, with a narrow muddy lane wending its way through them:

11 Sep 2016 GRAYTOWN Corbertt Street

11 Sep 2016 GRAYTOWN Corbett Street. Author’s collection.

A bit different to Corbett Street’s heyday:

View of Corbett Street, Graytown' (Spring Creek Diggings). Courtesy SLV. http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/pictoria/gid/slv-pic-aab67793

View of Corbett Street, Graytown’ (Spring Creek Diggings). Courtesy SLV. http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/pictoria/gid/slv-pic-aab67793

There was nothing left of the town and without a four-wheel drive there was no way I was going to bush bash my way through the muddy landscape.

Across the other side of the main Heathcote-Nagambie road is the remains of a Prisoner of War camp and 700 metres into the bush is the Graytown cemetery. This also looked like a bush bashing exercise–not an inviting prospect so I skipped it. As far as I know no relatives are buried there.

That was the end of my visit to Graytown. As I suspected, there was basically nothing to see.



On locating Graytown on the map, I was curious to know about the large greyed out area to Graytown’s south. On closer inspection, I realized it was Puckapunyal military camp.


1959 Geoff as school cadet

Puckapunyal stirred a memory in me of a family trip we did in 1959 when I was about 3 years old. Mum, Dad and four of us five kids bundled into the ‘tank’, the green Vanguard, and drove up the highway to visit my eldest brother, Geoff, who was ‘stationed’ at Puckapunyal on a two-week camp. It was part of his training as a school cadet.

Geoff must have been about 15. I can remember meeting up with him and seeing big tanks but that’s all I remember. At home, I remember him meticulously polishing his big black boots on the back verandah before he headed off, in uniform, to catch the Mont Albert tram to go to school in East Melbourne, his rifle slung over his shoulder. Not something you’d see on the tram these days.

Geoff says he has fond memories of those camps. One of the highlights for him was being able to shoot with ‘live ammo’. A pretty exciting prospect for a 15 year old boy brought up on cowboys and indians!

Reference for Graytown

Joyce Hammond, Bridging the gap, Shire of Goulburn 1871-1971, Shire of Goulburn, 1971.

Posted in Coghlan, Quinlan | 18 Comments

Me, Dad and the Olympic Games

1956 was a very busy year for my dad, John ‘Jack’ Leo COGHLAN (1909-1974). Not only did he become a father for the fifth time—to me—but he was working at the Olympic Games in, our home town, Melbourne.

1957 Marg

The XVI Olympiad was the first Olympic Games to be held in Australia and the first to be held in the Southern Hemisphere. It was also the first Games to be televised.

Dad’s official position at the Games was: ‘Technical Instructor, Olympic Training Scheme’. The position was for 12 months as a teacher of broadcasting techniques. Three hundred technicians were trained at this time.

The lead up...

Dad’s service during WWII was as a radio operator in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), serving in New Guinea and the South Pacific. On joining up, he was already proficient in morse code; a lover of anything to do with valves, resistors, oscilloscopes or such like. As a teenager he built his own crystal set (a radio receiver that received radio waves by a wire antenna) and in 1936, as a 27-year-old, he obtained his amateur radio licence. His future in the world of technology was laid out.

However, an episode of intense communication during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 nearly put an end to his dreams of a technical life. During the attack Dad sent morse code for 48 hours. The intensity and repetitiveness of this action resulted in a ‘wayward’ right arm. Messages from his brain to his arm became scrambled. In my childhood years, the disability manifested itself, mostly, at the kitchen table: in reaching for something, such as, the salt and pepper his arm would rise up, like something possessed. To control it he had to bring it down with his left arm. We laughed. We thought it was a joke. And I must admit Dad made a joke of it too. Ever the comedian. But it must have been very frustrating for him. Mum told me she had to cut up his food for him after they were married in 1943. However, not one to be beaten by adversity (in fact, the COGHLAN family motto is ‘Courage in Adversity’) Dad learnt to write and send morse code with his left hand. Nothing was going to stop him pursuing his technical dreams.

Following his medical discharge from the RAAF, and as part of his repatriation back into civilian life, he was asked what sort of work he would like to do. He didn’t hesitate; telecommunications. He was now learning to manage his disability with a little Valium, a muscle relaxant, and his new found skill of ambidexterity.

In 1944, he took up a position as a technician in the Radio section of the Post Master General’s (PMG) Department. He worked in Broadcast House, Lonsdale St, Melbourne, the home of the radio station 3LO (now 774 ABC Melbourne)* on-air studio until 1955. Whilst there he learned a lot about recording techniques, even recording his young children, singing, on a ’78’ record.

*For a brief history of 3LO to 774 click here

The Games…

Amongst the family memorabilia are some of the official photos taken of the broadcasting areas at the Games. The following photos feature a spruced up Dad with a seemingly fresh short, back and sides, ready for one of the most exciting times of his life—besides my entry into the world, of course:

1956 Dad at the controls. Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

1956 Dad on left. Others unknown. Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection

1956 Dad top of photo with ? Olympic Games Melbourne. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

An ‘unofficial’ photo’ of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is also part of the family archive. Family folklore says that Dad is the fellow in the white trailer perched precariously in front of a jeep in the centre of the following photo:

1956 MCG Olympic Games, Melbourne Australia. Apparently Dad’s the guy being transported precariously on the front of a jeep standing in the white cubicle on top of steps, centre of photo. Unknown photographer. Author’s private collection.

It’s great to have these photos and it’s been an added bonus to find Dad in a film clip archived in Australian Screen; ‘Australia’s audiovisual heritage online’, part of the National Film and Sound Archive.

This clip comes from a film sponsored by the Postmaster-General’s Department (now divided into Australia Post and Telstra) designed to celebrate and promote the achievement of a telecommunications system for the 1956 summer Olympics in Melbourne that was modern and of an international standard. The Games, the first to be held in Australia and in the southern hemisphere, were seen as a chance to prove Australia could stage a world-class event.

In the film clip (below), Dad is standing to the left of screen, in his ‘supervising role’ at the 32 second mark. He’s on for about 4 seconds so you’ve got to be quick!

Australia Post – Olympic Post Script (1956) Clip 1

There’s also some great examples of home movies taken at the Melbourne Games by Bruce Beresford, Mike Leyland and Sir Robert Menzies on the National Film and Sound Archive. To see them click here

After the Games, Dad went on to have a very fruitful and rewarding career with the PMG. But his technical interests did not stop at work; in his ‘spare time’ he made our television set and stereo equipment, and to ‘relax’, he exchanged signal strength information and weather conditions with people all over the world on his beloved ‘ham’ radio. A true techno whiz!

Posted in Coghlan | Tagged | 16 Comments

Where did I get that hair…Mary Jane CAMERON?

I have a lot of hair. It’s thick and curly. As a child my mum attempted to train its unruly behaviour by giving me frequent ‘trims’. She skilfully wielded those sharp scissors over my head as a I dutifully perched on the high, yellow stool. The result: a short style with ‘room to grow’, which meant, a fringe halfway up my forehead.

1961 Studio photoMum had gained tips for cutting curly hair from an auntie of Dad’s, ‘Auntie Grace’, and she, in turn, had picked up tips from her husband, Charles Edward Cameron LEE (1875-1950), who had been a hairdresser in Albury. Auntie Grace taught Mum how to ‘cut into the curl’, angling the scissors so that the ends were tapered, resulting in separate curls rather than a ‘mop’. It was a successful technique and is still used by hairdressers today.

As I ventured into adolescence, I wanted to grow my hair. Mum was not a proponent of long hair as she believed it sapped energy. She’d say to me, ‘all your energy is going into your hair’. I’m not sure where she got this idea from, perhaps it was part of her family folklore or perhaps it was something she learnt in her 1930s nursing training. Anyway, the growing of the hair did not result in a perceived drop in energy levels but it did result in a voluminous nest of curls and split ends.

1971 Long hair

The long hair did come in handy though, especially for ‘up-dos’. I was a bridesmaid for my sister’s wedding in 1971 and the fashion of the day was a slightly Victorian/Edwardian style: hair piled high on top of the head and high collars; Mandarin collars I think they were called.

My sister married on a public holiday, Easter Monday. Negotiations were ventured into with venues to open, as in those days most establishments closed on public holidays. The hairdresser, however, made an exception and agreed to open for the wedding party only.

1971 Wedding The hairThis was my first time at a hairdresser. I was excited. The sweet smell of the lotions and potions that would make my hair soft and manageable along with the cloud of hairspray mist just hanging in the upper stratosphere of the salon was intoxicating to an impressionable teenager with unruly hair. It felt luxurious just being there.

I don’t remember much else about the experience except that it seemed to take a very long time; my ‘do’ taking the longest. The hairdresser struggled to find places to pin the never-ending curls. And after the final curl was placed and the creation was secured with VO5, I stood up and nearly fell backwards; the weight of the veritable mountain that had erupted out the back of my head had altered my centre of gravity. I soon adjusted and, thankfully, stayed upright for the rest of the day.

But where did this hair come from?

Maybe Mary JAne CAMERON in locket

As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I love a bit of genetic analysis; a search for traits ‘handed down’ through the generations.

And in the case of my hair, my initial thoughts turned to my dad’s grandmother, Mary Jane CAMERON (1852-1934), sometimes documented as Jane Mary CAMERON, and commonly known as Jean/Jenny.

As you can see from the accompanying photo, taken in the 1870s, her hair is a similar style to mine at my sister’s wedding a hundred years later. It’s certainly thick. I suspect this is a photo of Jean on her wedding day but I don’t have proof, unfortunately.

My curl probably comes from Mum’s side but I’ll concentrate on Dad’s grandmother for this post.

What do I know about Mary Jane CAMERON?

  • She was an Irish lass, born in Dundalk, County Louth in about 1852.
  • Her parents were Alexander CAMERON and Catherine RICE.
  • She had five siblings, that I know of, and they were all born in Dundalk.
  • She married Edward LEE in 1873 in St Francis RC Church, Melbourne.
  • Capture john leo coghlan pedigree
  • The couple started their married life in Murray Street, Prahran, Victoria living there for at least 10 years. The growing family also lived in St Kilda and Carlton and lastly, in Bullarto South.
  • The couple had seven children:

Family View Report for Jane Mary Cameron

  • Jean spent a good deal of her later years living with her married daughter “Doll” (Mary Grace Jane LEE), Doll’s husband, Peter COGHLAN (my grandparents) and their two children, Jack (my dad) and Nance. She accompanied the family to Cora Lynn, West Gippsland for the few years that Peter COGHLAN managed the General Store.
  • She died in Cora Lynn on 6 Jan 1934 and was buried with her husband, Edward LEE, in St Kilda Cemetery.

1920s Mary Jane Jenny LEE nee CAMERON

The photo opposite is Jean on ‘hair wash day’ in Cora Lynn. Drying off her hair in the sun, perhaps? Maybe she never had her hair cut! I could never have managed that.

But what of Jean’s early years in the colony of Victoria, prior to her marriage?

I haven’t been able to verify her arrival in the colony but I suspect she is the Mary CAMERON (16) listed with Henry RICE (47), both Irish, in the passenger list for the ship Morning Light which arrived in Melbourne on 9th Feb 1867 from Liverpool.

Why do I think this? I know Henry RICE was Jean’s grandfather as he is named as Catherine RICE’s father on the marriage certificate of Jean’s parents, Alexander CAMERON and Catherine RICE. His age on the passenger list is about 10 years younger than I would have calculated for him (from his birth notice in 1808) but he may have lowered it to comply with emigration rulings regarding age. After all, the colony was keen to have ‘productive’ people. The ‘Mary CAMERON’ listed is the right age according to Jean’s known birth year.

1866 Henry RICE leaves for AustraliaA further piece of corroborating evidence confirming Henry RICE’s emigration is a few lines I found in the Irish newspaper The Dundalk Democrat and People’s Journal dated  27 Oct 1866:

MR. HENRY RICE-a respected inhabitant of Dundalk, left for Liverpool on Monday evening to take shipping for Australia, where he goes to join some of his children who are in a prosperous position in that Colony. Always honest, trustful, and kind-hearted, Mr Rice has left his native town with the good wishes of all his friends. We wish him a prosperous voyage.

I have no evidence to support Jean’s parents and/or siblings coming to Australia but there is evidence that members of her mother’s clan, the RICE family, did emigrate, as inferred in the newspaper article regarding Henry RICE (food for a later post).

A clue to how Edward and Jean may have met…involving the RICEs and the “King of Maffra”, James GIBNEY…

A cousin on my dad’s side sent me a transcript of a handwritten list of names she’d found on the inside back cover of a book titled Spirit of Prayer, which was in some family memorabilia:

  • Auntie Bessie. Died April 5th 1890 RIP.
  • Sister Mary Angela. Died June 15th 1890. RIP.
  • Bella Denholm. Died Mar. 28 1891
  • Rev. Mother Margaret. Died April 13th 1891. RIP
  • Auntie Gibney. Died March 18th 1893. RIP

And inside the front cover was the following handwritten note:

K. E. Lee, Murray Street, Prahran. April 7th 1888′

with the words ‘Windsor’ and ‘Presentation’ just visible.

I think I can safely deduce from the address that the book belonged to the eldest child of Edward and Jean, Kathleen Elizabeth LEE (sometimes referred to as Catherine). I could also deduce that Kathleen was a student at Presentation Convent, Windsor. (To read more about the history of the Presentation Sisters in Victoria, click on this link to the website  Society of Presentation Sisters)

A map of the area shows Murray Street Prahran, where the LEE family lived, is only a 15 minute walk from the Convent. I researched ‘Rev Mother Margaret’ and found that her date of death coincided with the date of death of a Presentation Sister, Sr. Margaret Mary CRONIN, one of the first Presentation Sisters to come to Australia from Ireland. It seems the family had a ‘connection’ of some kind to the Presentation Sisters-perhaps going back as far as Ireland. A whole new track to go down…..

But what really intrigued me about the list of names was the entry, ‘Auntie Gibney’.

I’d often wondered if there was a connection between James GIBNEY, a land owner in Maffra in the mid 1800s, and the naming of Edward and Jean’s youngest child, Edward James Gibney LEE (Walter ‘Alan’ LEE’s father). I’m pretty sure the following research holds the key…

A search for James GIBNEY of Maffra…

I did a search for ‘James GIBNEY’ and ‘Maffra’ in Trove. His obituary in the Maffra Spectator, dated 28 Dec 1899, gave me an approximate date of death and a burial place:

1899 Obituary for James GIBNEY

1899 Obituary for James GIBNEY Maffra Spectator (Vic. : 1882 – 1920), Thursday, 28 December 1899, page 3. Accessed through Trove.



We, in common with old residents of Maffra, regret the demise of Mr James Gibney, which sad event occurred at Richmond last Thursday. The pseudonym, “King of Maffra” was in every way applicable to the deceased. He was the founder of the Macalister Hotel in the early days; he built at his own expense the bridge spanning the Macalister River; he was the mainstay of the church in connection with the Roman Catholic religion here and was never found wanting, in fact he practically provided funds for the building of the first chapel. Mr Gibney settled down here in one of our most comfortable homes, but at the death of his wife some few years ago he bade adieu to the district. According to the old adage, ‘Good deeds live after men!’ Did the man who has left this mortal life imagine there would have been TWO sympathisers to meet his remains at the Maffra station and FOUR to follow the bier to God’s acre?

No direct clues there …

A further search for James GIBNEY, this time on the website Australian Cemeteries revealed the details of the occupants of his grave in the Maffra Cemetery:

MAffra Cemetery Gibney graves with headingsThis information gave me James GIBNEY’s exact date of death, 21/12/1899, his second name, Joseph, and where he came from, ‘Native of Dublin Ireland‘. It also revealed details of his wife, Margaret. And, lo and behold, her date of death, 18/3/1893 coincided with ‘Auntie Gibney”s date of death. I had a connection…

Monument at grave site of James GIBNEY and his wife Margaret GIBNEY nee RICE

Monument at grave site of James GIBNEY and his wife Margaret GIBNEY née RICE

James Joseph GIBNEY () and Margaret GIBNEY nee RICE (-1893E

James Joseph GIBNEY (c1824-1899) and Margaret GIBNEY née RICE (c1827-1893)

Upon request, the kind people at Australian Cemeteries supplied me with photos of the grave site of James and his wife, Margaret GIBNEY in Maffra Cemetery.

As you can see, there is quite a substantial monument erected to James and his wife. It’s topped with a Celtic Cross and the Harp of Erin sits just below it.

The side of the monument reads:

Of …… ……… pray

For the eternal repose of










So, how was Margaret GIBNEY, alias ‘Auntie Gibney’, related/connected to the LEE family?

A search on BDM Vic using her date of death revealed that Margaret GIBNEY’s maiden name was RICE and her father’s name was Henry RICE. Bingo! Jean’s mother’s name was Catherine RICE and Catherine’s father’s name was Henry RICE.

So, Margaret GIBNEY née RICE was Jean’s mother’s sister. In other words, James GIBNEY’s wife was Jean CAMERON’s auntie.

Hope you can follow that…

Land in Maffra

A look at a map of Maffra shows many allotments owned by James GIBNEY. I’ve highlighted some of them near the Macalister River on a portion of the map (see the highlighted areas on the map below). On close inspection, there is a small block owned by ‘H RICE’ (black square). Perhaps Henry RICE and his granddaughter, Jean, settled here on their arrival in the colony to be near Henry’s daughter, Margaret, ‘Auntie GIBNEY’.

The large block near the river owned by ‘J GIBNEY’ is where the Macalister Hotel was built and owned by him. It still stands on this spot today but has undergone many renovations. And the bridge over the Macalister River (where it says ‘From Seaton’) is the bridge he built. It’s named ‘Gibney’s Bridge’.

Map of Maffra showing J Gibney and H Rice properties

Portion of map of ‘Maffra, parishes of Maffra, Bundalaguah and Wa-De-Lock, County of Tanjil’ showing the allotments owned by J GIBNEY near the Macalister River. The black box shows a block owned by H RICE. Accessed through the State Library of Victoria (SLV)  http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/109185

Below is an engraving of an artist’s impression of the township of Maffra in 1882. Note ‘Gibney’s Bridge over the Macalister River in Picture 4.

1882 Town of Maffra Gippsland Engraved by Samuel Calvert. IAN 13.5.1882. NOTE GIBNEY BRIDGE Accessed online via SLV

1882 TOWNSHIP OF MAFFRA, GIPPSLAND. 1. Maffra, from Sale Road, 2. Avon Shire Hall, 3. Church of England, 4. Gibney’s Bridge. Engraving by Samuel Calvert in Illustrated Australian News 13.5.1882. Accessed through SLV. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/107132

The naming of Edward James Gibney LEE?

So, why did Edward and Jean LEE include ‘James GIBNEY’ in the name of their youngest son, Edward James Gibney LEE? Was it because they admired the man, James GIBNEY, and wanted to honour him by perpetuating his name? Or was it because James and Margaret GIBNEY were ‘surrogate’ parents to Jean? It’s possible Jean’s parents died prematurely in Ireland and her grandfather, Henry RICE, believing that Jean would have better prospects in Australia, brought her out to be cared for by his daughter, Margaret and her husband James GIBNEY, who didn’t have any children of their own. In fact, the more I think about this the more I think this is probably the case. There were similar arrangements in the next generation of the LEE family where children spent extended periods of time with relatives following the premature death of a parent or parents. Jean may have used the name with the idea of honouring her ‘surrogate’ parents, the GIBNEYs.

A possible scenario of how Jean CAMERON met Edward LEE:

After arriving in Melbourne in 1867, Henry RICE settles in Maffra with his granddaughter, Jean CAMERON, in order to be near his daughter, Margaret GIBNEY, née RICE. Jean spends much of her time in the Macalister Hotel helping her ‘Auntie GIBNEY’ who has no children of her own. The LEE brothers, Edward and Charles, are frequent visitors to the Macalister Hotel after rowing their boat up the river from their farms in Upper Maffra (Newry)—after all, they’re descendants of Thames lightermen, they know how to manage water transport. Edward takes a shine to the teenager with the full head of hair, Jean, but they wait until she’s 21 and he’s established himself in his profession as a wood engraver before they marry in 1873.

All supposition…but a possibility, I guess.


  • It turns out that ‘Auntie Bessie’, mentioned in the Spirit of Prayer, is also connected to the RICE family (for a later post)…
  • An interesting finding regarding the Macalister Hotel is that George MILLET (1851-1906), Mum’s great-uncle bought the hotel in the 1880s, and in the 1930s, Mum’s father, William Thomas Rupert WINTER was the publican there. So, the Macalister Hotel was in the hands of both sides of my parents’ pioneering families. This was years before my parents met and it’s highly unlikely the families would have known each other. An amazing case of 6 degrees of separation!
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My DNA. Results are in.

I’d often thought about submitting my genes for analysis to establish and/or verify my ethnic origins. Genetic testing has become a very popular thing to do in the genealogical world. The impetus to act, finally came in the form of an email I received a few months ago. It was from a relative of the WINTER clan still living in Ireland—my mother’s paternal line. The relative informed me that she’d done the test and she was ‘95% Irish’. This was interesting, as it basically put to bed the theory that the WINTERs had migrated from Germany to Ireland, possibly, to escape religious persecution. It meant that the WINTERs were, in fact, ‘natives’ of Ireland.

The genetic line this relative carried had been passed down, in Ireland, for many generations. I, however, was a mixture. From what I knew of my heritage, I was 75% Irish, and 25% English. Three quarters of my great-great-grandparents, 12 out of 16 in fact, were born in Ireland: Luke COGHLAN, Ellen NEVIN, Martin QUINLAN, Ellen DUNN, Alexander CAMERON, Catherine RICE, Edward WINTER, Honoria TANCRED, Susanna FITZPATRICK, Jane BLAIR, Edward BOWES and Catherine KEEGAN. The other four were born in England: Edward LEE, Jemima WILLIAMS, George MILLETT and William SELLERS. I wondered, if I did the test, would it show this mix as I had calculated it or, would there be surprises? A Viking, perhaps?

My results arrived via email, two months after my little vial of spittle had flown over the Pacific to the AncestryDNA lab in America. The results were exciting… and surprising.

Here they are:

My AncestryDNA results

2016 My AncestryDNA results. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

And in a little more detail:

2016 My AncestryDNA profile. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Yes. I am 75% Irish. Not surprising. But what about those other bits and pieces? And the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal). 9%! That’s quite a chunk of my DNA. Strangely, I’ve never had the desire to dance the fandango or tease a bull with my red cape, so, what’s the story?

Ancestry.com has a lot of information about the different ethnic groups it tests for and after much reading it appears that my Iberian genes and all the other European bits and pieces I’m made up of are the result of the Celtic tribes moving across Europe. As it states on Ancestry.com:

Originating in central Europe, they [the Celts] spread to dominate most of western Europe, the British Isles and the Iberian Peninsula.

Admittedly, testing autosomal DNA (AncestryDNA test), that is, the hotchpotch of DNA inherited from both parents, is going to result in ‘mixtures’ of ethnic origins unless, of course, the parents have lived in the same place and married within the same group for generations. In that case, they may be considered ‘natives’ of the area. It is a fairly crude analysis, at best. There are other DNA tests available which will give more particular information: the Y-DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the patrilineal line, that is, from father to son, and the mitochondrial DNA test analyzes the DNA passed down on the matrilineal line, that is, from mother to her children. The latter test is interesting in that the mitochondrial DNA inherited by a daughter from her mother is in turn passed on to her daughter, and so on. Results from this testing may provide valuable historical information about the origins of the maternal line. This information is often hard to find or sometimes impossible to find as women were not often mentioned in records or newspapers.

So far, Ancestry has ‘matched’ my test results with 37 4th cousins and another 60, or so, distant cousins. A few of them have contacted me and no doubt we’ll be swapping facts and stories in the future.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, I didn’t score highly in the Viking stakes but I’m very happy to be a Celt…I think.

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A LEE Match!

About a month ago, a LEE ‘relative’ in the USA, who I’ve recently made contact with, emailed a couple of photos of a brother of her forebear, Charles LEE (1841-1929). Charles LEE being the brother of my great-grandfather Edward LEE (1840-1898).

The question….are the photos of Edward LEE?

Edward LEE sent to USA from Australia copy

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

Edward LEE Stewart and Co

?Edward LEE. Courtesy of relative in USA.

One of the photos is labelled Stewart and Co., Melbourne. I found a brief history of the company on the Cambridge University Library website as part of a project The Royal Commonwealth Society Photograph Collection.

The project is a history of photographers active in the Commonwealth and the images taken.

Robert Stewart was a commercial photographer active in Australia. He had studios in: 267 Pitt Street, Sydney 1863-64; 396 George Street, Sydney 1867-68; 348 George Street, Sydney 1868-70. From 1871 Stewart also had a studio at 217 Bourke Street East, Melbourne. This studio seems to have become known as Stewart and Co.. Stewart and Co. occupied a (sic) various studios in Bourke Street, Melbourne, until circa 1900 (Davies and Stanbury 1985, p.235).
Sources: Davies, Alan and Stanbury, Peter (1985), ‘The mechanical eye in Australia: photography 1841-1900’. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

The fact that the photographers were not in business as Stewart and Co. in Melbourne until after 1871 rules out the possibility that the photo is of the other LEE brother known to have emigrated to Australia, that is, George Williams LEE, as he died in Maffra, Victoria in 1864.

I think you’d have to agree that the gentleman in the two photos above from the USA, who I suspect are of the same person, bears a striking resemblance to the gentleman in the locket owned by my grandmother, Mary Grace Jane COGHLAN (née LEE) (1881-1958), one of Edward LEE’s three daughters.

The Locket belonging to my grandmother Mary Grace Jane LEE (1881-1958), known as ‘Doll’.

In a previous blog post, The Locket, I came to the likely conclusion that the images were of my grandmother’s parents: Mary Jane LEE (née CAMERON) (c1852-1934), known as Jean, and Edward LEE (1840-1898). Now, with the likenesses from the USA of ‘Charles LEE’s brother’ matching the photo in my grandmother’s locket this raises the probability even higher that it is indeed, my great-grandfather, Edward LEE, in the locket.

I was really excited to receive the images from the USA. They are a very valuable addition to the LEE story in Australia. So many thanks LEE ‘relative’!

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