The murder at Sutton Veny

By Peter Burness

(Previously published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003)

During the First World War tens of thousands of Australian troops passed through the huge military training camps set up in Britain. Soldiers would move between these camps and the battle front in France and Belgium. The hutted camp at Sutton Veny near Salisbury was one of these, and there, on the night of 27 November 1917, a tragic event began to unfold. An Australian soldier was found dead in suspicious circumstances.

About 11 pm that night, Corporal Verney Asser, an instructor at the camp, went to the sergeant of the guard’s room to report that his colleague with whom he shared a hut had committed suicide. Asser said that he had been woken by a loud shot and looked over to find Corporal Durkin dead in his bed. The victim was lying on his right side with his head bloodied and a rifle by his hand.

The deceased was 24-year-old Joe Durkin from Carlton, Victoria. He had grown up in Kilmore where his Irish-born father was a local tailor; his mother died when he was about ten years old. Durkin, a former railwayman, had been in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) for almost two years. He left Melbourne with the 17th reinforcements for the 6th Battalion in April 1916, and was stationed in Egypt before going to England. More recently, he and Asser were light machine-gun instructors with the 2nd Australian Training Battalion and they shared accommodation in the Lewis gun hut.

Two days after the tragedy a coroner’s court was held at the military hospital at Sutton Veny. Corporal Asser was the main witness. He testified that Durkin had been depressed and moody all the fateful day. The jury retired and, after deliberation, returned to the court to announce that it believed that the corporal had committed suicide during a period of temporary insanity.

The matter may have rested there but for another camp instructor, Corporal Mime, coming forward a few days later with information that would quickly re-open the case. From the first Milne had insisted that Durkin was not a man likely to kill himself and clearly he had become concerned about the inquest’s conclusions. He now went on to say that on the night of the shooting Asser had come to his hut three times and had gone into an area where ammunition was stored. Later there had been a shot from Asser and Durkin’s hut next door and a round had actually passed through Mime’s wall and put a hole in his jacket which was at the end of his bed. Initially he had thought it was an accidental discharge and did not want to report it.

Matters that had been ignored in the original investigation now took on a sinister appearance. It was recalled that when Asser had gone to the guard hut he was fully dressed, even wearing his wound puttees and in the hut, where he said he had been asleep, his mattress was still rolled up. No empty cartridge was found in the rifle that killed Durkin; someone had extracted it after firing, and only Asser and Durkin were in the hut. It began to look like murder, and Asser was the obvious suspect.

Investigation of his background revealed further odd facts. Verney Asser claimed to have been born in Ballarat thirty years earlier and to have been employed as a porter before volunteering for the AIF. He may have had previous military training because he was a sergeant in October 1915 when he was accepted to transfer to the permanent forces as an acting staff sergeant-major in the Administrative and Instructional Staff. Two months later he was recorded as having deserted from the army.

Asser next appeared at sea on the troopship Maiwa. When the ship reached Colombo he presented himself as a stowaway, expressing a wish to get to the war and requesting that he be enlisted. He was taken on to Egypt and there was made to contribute to the cost of his voyage. He was held at Zeitoun camp until it was decided that his desertion from the permanent forces would be overlooked, and he rejoined the AIF on 1 March 1916. He became a Member of the Australian Army Service Corps and in due course saw service on the Western Front until February 1917.

There was certainly evidence that Asser and Durkin had been friends. However, Asser revealed his darker side when drunk The two men quarrelled sometimes and witnesses recalled that a few weeks earlier Asser threatened “to get even” with Durkin. Added to this, investigators also discovered that a year earlier Asser had been admitted to hospital in England suffering from “mental derangement”. This was attributed to his alcoholism. It seems that he may have also been jealous of Durkin’s association with a widow in the town. The two men had argued when Durkin found Asser reading his letters from her.

Soldiers are subject to both civil and military law. Because the crime was committed in England it was decided that civil authorities would handle this case. Asser was committed to stand trial at the assizes at Devizes in January 1918 and the Commonwealth agreed to pay the costs of his defence. Extensive evidence was presented and the prosecution clearly established that only Asser and Durkin had been in the hut that evening, and that from the positioning of the fatal wound, and the type of rifle used, Durkin would have been in no position to shoot himself.

Still, Asser seemed comfortable when called into the witness box, answering confidently, and insisting he was innocent. It did him no good: the prosecution’s case was sound, and he was found guilty and condemned to death.

Verney Asser appealed against his sentence on the grounds of insanity. He claimed that he had been in asylums and hospital mental wards, although only his military record, with its reference to “mental derangement”, was produced as evidence of this. The appeal was dismissed and the death penalty confirmed. He was hanged at the old Shepton Mallet Prison on Tuesday morning 5 March 1918. The execution was conducted in secrecy without the customary raising of a black flag or tolling of a bell. Asser died instantaneously and offered no confession of his crime.

Remarkably, the Shepton Mallet Prison would see many more military executions. It was taken over by the American forces during the Second World War, was nicknamed “the glasshouse”, and gained a notorious reputation. Twenty-one US servicemen were hanged and two were shot at Shepton Mallet for crimes of rape and murder.

It is possible that had Asser’s crime occurred in a camp in France, and been handled under Military Law, he may have escaped execution. While military courts’ sentences were often harsh, some death sentences for murder were commuted. Furthermore, in the application of Military Law the official historian, Charles Bean, noted that “it was doubtful whether an Australian soldier even when guilty of murder could receive a death penalty”. It may be that there was more certainty in getting a conviction, and the full penalty, from a civil court. As it was, he became the only Australian soldier executed overseas in the First World War, if one excepts the case of Private Albert Fraser, who was hanged at HM Prison Glasgow on 26 May 1920.

Fraser’s situation was quite different. This troublesome soldier had arrived in England too late to see active service, and had cast aside his uniform and deserted as soon as the war was over. He lived as a civilian from the proceeds of selling pots and pans, and from crime. He and an accomplice were arrested in Belfast for the brutal murder of a man they had assaulted and robbed in a Glasgow park on 3 February 1920. This was a straight out civil matter and the fact that Fraser was still an “illegal absentee” from the AIF was not raised during the trial.

The subject of military executions during the First World War has been the subject of increasing interest in recent years. Throughout the war the death penalty was imposed on British soldiers for various crimes, including murder. Overwhelmingly, the most common charge was desertion. Various moves have been made to gain posthumous pardons for these men largely in the belief that they did not receive a fair hearing in the prevailing circumstances. The British Commonwealth forces executed over 300 of their own troops during the war, but none was a member of the AIF. But the claim that “no Australian soldier was executed during the war” overlooks the little known story of Verney Asser. Of course, the claim remains essentially correct, since it refers to military executions, not those under Civil Law.

Verney Asser died in disgrace. His entitlement to medals was cancelled; he has no marked grave; nor is his name recorded on the Australian War Memorial’s roll of honour in Canberra. Joseph Harold Durkin’s name is there. This unfortunate soldier received a military funeral and is buried in the war cemetery at St John’s Churchyard, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire. His resting place is in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and he lies in the small cemetery with 142 other Australians who died while in the local camps or hospital during the war.

Author Peter Burness is Senior Curator, Gallery Development, Australian War Memorial.


  • National Archives Files: NAA B2455; A.J. Fraser; J.H. Durkin; V Asser.
  • Australian War Memorial File; AWM Series 10: 4304/9/75.
  • Information from Kilmore Historical Society.

Reprinted with the permission of Peter Burness and Wartime magazine. Originally published in issue 21 of Wartime, the official magazine of the Australian War Memorial.

The Durkin Family of Kilmore

By Heather Knight

(Published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003, minor amendments in 2017)

Bartholomew Durkin was born in the parish of Knocks, County Mayo, Ireland in 1861, the son of Thomas Durkin and Maggie Harley. In 1890 he married Clara Poulton in Kilmore. Clara was a native of Kilmore and was born in 1862 to John Driver Poulton and Jane Burge.

The children of Clara and Bartholomew were all born at Kilmore; Thomas in 1890, William Clarence b.1891, Joseph Harold b.1893, John born and died (age 1 day) in 1895, Michael John b. 1896, Margaret Mary b.1898, Anthoney b.1900, twins Emanuel Ignatius and Patrick born and died in 1902.

Clara Durkin died in 1902 age 39 after giving birth to twin boys. The Kilmore Free Press (6 March 1902) wrote this poignant obituary: “We regret this week having to record the death of Mrs. Durkin, wife of Mr Bartholomew Durkin, of Sydney Street, which sad event occurred on Friday morning last under melancholy circumstances at the age of 38 years. Deceased lady, who was a native of Kilmore and much respected gave birth to twin boys a few days previously, and death ensued from blood poisoning. She leaves a young family of eight children most of whom are of too tender an age to realise their great loss. The remains were interred in the Kilmore Catholic cemetery on Saturday afternoon.” Sadly, one of the babies died shortly after his mother and the other a few months later.

On 27 November 1917, Joseph Harold Durkin, the middle child of Bartholomew and Clara, was callously murdered while serving with the AIF in England. Incredibly, the Kilmore newspapers of the time did not make headlines from his brutal murder. This was probably due to the initial belief, following the findings of the original coronial inquiry, that Joseph Durkin had committed suicide. Joseph’s father, Bartholomew, probably kept what he believed to be the circumstances of his son’s death quiet, fearing the shame and indignity that a death by suicide would bring to his family.

On 13 December 1917 the Kilmore Free Press printed this small paragraph announcing the death of Joseph Durkin: — “Acting Corporal Joseph Durkin, a Kilmore boy and son of Mr. S. Durkin, Sydney Street, lost his life at the front.”

The myth seems to have continued; death at the front was far more noble than death by suicide or murder at the hands of a comrade. In January 1918, about the time of the murder trial of Verney Asser in England, the Kilmore Advertiser wrote: “Mr B. Durkin, Sydney Street, Kilmore, has received the following letter from the secretary of the Railway Commissioners relative to the death of his son Acting-Corporal J. Durkin, who was killed in action in France recently:— “I am directed by the Commissioners to convey to you their sincere sympathy in the great loss you have sustained by the regretted death of your son whilst on service with the Expeditionary Forces of the Commonwealth.” Prior to enlisting, Acting-Corporal Durkin was a trusted and faithful employee of the Railway Department.”

In December 1918 the Kilmore Advertiser makes brief mention that:— “Mr B. Durkin received a photo of the grave of his son Corporal Joseph Harold Durkin, who died 27 Nov 1917 at Sutton Veny, Wiltshire.”

Bartholomew Durkin died in 1926, twenty-four years after his wife. This brief obituary outlines his life:—”[death] Of Mr Bartholomew Durkin, which occurred in the Kilmore hospital, where he had been an inmate some time. He was 63 years of age, a widower, a native of Ireland and carried on a tailoring business for a period of about 40 years in Kilmore. His remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery on Thursday Rev. Father Gleeson, P.P. attending to the obsequies. Mr. Beegan carried out the mortuary arrangements” – (Kilmore Free Press 15 ApriL 1926).

Joseph Durkin is commemorated on the Kilmore War Memorial, Kilmore Shire Honour Roll and Assumption College Honour Roll.


  • Kilmore Free Press and Kilmore Advertiser]
  • Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour Database and Nominal Roll.
  • Joseph Durkin’s War Service Record, on-line at National Archives of Australia

What’s In A Name? – Kilmore Road Names

The following is an edited version of the articles, “What’s In A Name?” by Elizabeth Pidgeon and Heather Knight, originally published in Kilmore Connections, September 2001 and subsequent update, “Kilmore Road Names” in March 2005.

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“The act of naming is the great and solemn consolation of mankind” – Elias Canetti

Following the recent proposal [2001] by the Historical Society to submit a list of recommended names to the Mitchell Shire for consideration when naming future streets, it was thought a review of existing street names might be in order. Since the inception of this article, there have been moves by the Mitchell Shire to change existing street and place names, so perhaps this is an appropriate time to reflect on why certain names in the past may have been chosen. Approximately one hundred streets exist in the Kilmore township today.

Albert Street – Prince Albert Francis Charles Augustus 1819-1861. Prince Consort and husband of Queen Victoria. Prince Albert took an active interest in the arts, science, trade and industry; the project for which he is best remembered is the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Alfred Street – Named for Prince Alfred Ernest Albert, son of Queen Victoria. He was the target of an assassination attempt when he visited Sydney in 1867.

Allan Street – Named for Robert Allan, miller. It would appear that there was another Mr. Allen (spelt with an ‘e’) in Kilmore and it was he that left Kilmore in 1865 to become a Primitive Methodist Minister. Perhaps he is the Mr. Allen after whom Allen Street is named. There was also another Allen family living in the district.

Robert Allan the miller, was involved with the Presbyterian Church.  J. A. Maher in “The Tale of a Century” , states that Alan’s mill (he spells Allen with an ‘e’ to add to the confUsion) was built about 1844 and was the first in the Port Phillip District. However, according to Lewis and Peggy Jones’ book ‘The Flour Mills of Victoria 184 9-1990,’ there were several flour mills earlier than Robert Allan’s, which they claim was probably built in 1847. Maher p.1 7; Jones p.103-I 05, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, Maya Tucker p.54; Kilmore Examiner 21 March 1S65; Kilmore Examiner 9 Sept 1858.

Andersons Road – Most likely after Charles Grattan Anderson, 1828-1901. Squatter, miner, businessman and pound keeper. Born in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, Charles arrived in the colony in 1837 age 9. He later left to go to India but returned for the gold rush in 1850 and was present at Eureka, where he narrowly missed being shot. He held the Pontisford run from 1854, was a land-owner in the Parishes of Glenburnie and Bylands, a member of the Masonic lodge and was the Kilmore pound keeper from the 1850’s until a year or so before his death. He died in 1901 in East Melbourne.

Andrew Street – Saint Andrew was one of the twelve apostles. Patron Saint of Scotland and Russia.

Ballantine Court – William Ballantine was an early landholder in Kilmore. He was a committee member of the Total Abstinance Society.

Banool Avenue – Aboriginal for “high hill”. The name of the property at 18 Fitzroy Street (which runs behind Banool Avenue), built by George Hudson in 1926. At the time he was a partner in the real estate firm Osborne and Hudson. Banool Avenue, was named when the Banool subdivision was named after his own property and promoted in the late 1960s by George Hudson.

Bindley Court – Frank Lane Bindley 1830 — 1870. Surgeon and landholder. Dr. Bindley was a prominent early Kilmore resident. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and president of the Library Committee. He built Bindley House in Powlett Street in the 1860s. Dr. Bindley was recognised as a very clever surgeon for his time. He died in September 1870 aged only 40 and is buried in the Kilmore General Cemetery.

Bourke Street – Sir Richard Bourke 1777-1855. Governor of NSW, 1831-38. Regarded as a successful administrator, he brought order to the squatting situation by creating a licensing system for all those farmers who wanted to take up land beyond the settlements. Governor Bourke actively supported self-government of the colony, provided state aid to religious schools, gave full legal rights to emancipists and created an organised system of immigration and introduced trial by jury.

Boyd Street— Off White street. Named for John Boyd of the Wallan Wallan Station. He is buried in the Kilmore General Cemetery.

Branigan Drive (nth of Green’s Pinch) – Named for the Rev. Michael Branigan. Born at Olbridge, near Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. Thought to have been born in 1834, he was ordained on 11 June 1858 and was not (error in the Sept 2001 issue), the first priest ordained in Victoria; this honour, according to Maher goes to Father Maurice Stack who was assistant to Fr. Branigan at one stage. Fr. Stack was ordained on 13th April 1851 in Melbourne. (Jim Lowden, Maher p. 71)

Broadhurst Street and Tootle Street – Robert Benson Broadhurst c.1814—1898. Squatter, surveyor and community worker and Alfred Dowley Tootal 1822-1874. Squatter and businessman.

Alfred D. Tootal, in partnership with Robert Broadhurst and Colonel Henry John White, took over the Long Hills Station. and renamed it Belle Vue. Alfred Tootal’s mother was Sarah Broadhurst and Tootal appears as the second name of several of the Broadhurst children. The Broadhurst family had the license of the Belle Vue run (between Wallan and Bylands) from October 1842 to May 1853 and The Dean run (4 miles north east of Wallan) from April 1849 to Jan 1862. Alfred Tootal was also licensee of the Pontesford Run from Feb 1846-Jan 1851. Fittingly, in recognition of their partnership, Broadhurst Street runs close to Tootle Street. Robert married Eliza Kilgour, daughter of Andrew Beveridge. The family established a station with evidence of a “refined lifestyle”. There is also a Broadhurst Lane out of Wandong. The spelling of the name Tootal has been corrupted to Tootle.

The Broadhurst brothers and Tootal brothers were cousins. They were all members of the Manchester-based fabric firm Tootal, Broadhurst, Lee & Co. (Jim Lowden).

Burgess Road – William Burgess 1805-18? Farmer and labourer.

Butler’s Road – This road was named for John Matthew Butler, whose son Kevin John lived in “Lai Fale,” Butler’s Road until his death in 2000. (Jim Lowden).

John Butler 1820— 1865. Hotelier (Red Lion), farmer and councillor. John Butler was one of Kilmore’s earlier settlers, arriving in the town about the year 1847 when one of his children was born at Kilmore. He owned land in the town and in the parish of Bylands. John Butler was on the first council elected in 1856 and was a member of the Mechanics’ Institute. He built the Red Lion Hotel in 1856 and held the license until April 1865. His daughter (Sister Francis) was the first native-born nun in Victoria, joining the Mercy Order. He died at his residence at Bylands in June 1865 His wife Ellen (nee Bourke) died in 1864.

Henry Butler 1825-1901. Farmer. A substantial land owner at Kilmore East. His son, MI J. Butler was on the shire council for the Bylands and Glenburnie riding. Butler has been a name synonymous with Kilmore East for many years, with some members of the family prominent in local government.

Chapel Street –The Catholic Parish of St. Patrick’s was established in 1849 (the oldest inland Catholic parish in Victoria). While raising funds for a permanent building, a temporary wooden church or chapel was established some time between 1850 and 1854 on Brewery Hill, at the northern end of the present Chapel Street.

Church Street – The Anglican Christ Church is located in this street. The first stone was laid in 1857 and the Church was completed in 1864.

Clancy Road – This road runs near original and present Clancy family property. Another family name which is synonymous with Kilmore.

Clarke Street – Reay McKay Clarke 1815-1882. Early Settler, squatter, flour-miller, coach operator and hotelier. Reay Clarke arrived at Port Phillip in 1838. He operated the Currency Lad Hotel and later the Dunrobin Castle Hotel around 1848, as well as other hotels in the Sunday Creek (Broadford) area. He was licensee of the East Moranding Run, (north of Kilmore) from March 1853 to April 1855. Reay owned the property “Lauriston” which was situated on what is now known as Clarke Street. In 1856 he built the Albion Flour Mill and sold it a year later to Henry Wilson. He died in Kilmore in 1882.

Father Charles Clarke 1814-1854. First Catholic priest for the parish of Kilmore, arriving in Kilmore in 1849. He purchased land for the first Catholic Church at Brewery Hill where the first Catholic Church was built in Chapel Street. Clarke Street runs near this site. Charles Clarke died in 1854 and was buried in Melbourne.

Conway Street – Michael Conway 1829-19 15. Farmer, benefactor, Shire of Kilmore Councillor.

Donated land to the Sisters of Mercy for their school. Retired into a house he built in Conway Street, opposite the Kilmore railway station. He is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.

Curry Road – Michael Curry c.1829- 1907. Landowner, labourer. Born in County Clare, Ireland, Michael arrived in Port Phillip about 1848. He married Jane McDonald in Kilmore in 1860, citing his occupation as labourer. Together they reared thirteen children. For many years he was engaged in municipal contract works. He owned Lot 129 Parish of Bylands, next to the cemetery. He was a resident of Kilmore for over fifty years and is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.

East Street – East street, along with Kelly’s Lane, forms the eastern boundary of Rutledge’s Special Survey.

Fitzroy Street – Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy 1796-1858. Appointed Governor of NSW in 1846. Governor—General of all Australian colonies 1851-1855. During his time as Governor General, Victoria became a separate colony. He presided at a time of unprecedented immigration, precipitated by the gold rush.

Foote Street – Named for surveyor Henry Boorn Foot. He surveyed the route of the present Hume Freeway.  On the government survey map the name is spelt Foot and the use of ‘Foote’ is incorrect. We used the spelling used on the street signs for the street name article but used the spelling of Foot as preferred by the family researcher for the front cover and short article about Henry Foot in Kilmore Connections Sept 2001.

George Street – St. George, patron Saint of England.

Gipps Street – Sir George Gipps 1791— 1847. Governor of NSW 1837-1846. A leading figure when major squatting was taking place around Port Phillip.

Glanville Drive (Industrial estate) – Richard Glanville 1796-1879. Farmer, gardener, carpenter. His son Dick Glanville was a well-known boot-maker and operated his business in the building where the Kilmore Book Shop is today.

Graves Street – The origin of this street name is unclear: One theory is that there may have been an early cemetery in the vicinity. James Howden Graves was an original licensee of the Clonbinane Station near Kilmore in 1874.

This street has also been spelt as Greaves Street in both the rate books and newspapers. Perhaps this is indeed the original spelling but was pronounced “graves” and the spelling has since changed.

Green Street / Green’s Pinch – William Pomeroy Greene 1817 — 1845. Landowner, squatter and “gentleman colonist”. Captain Greene emigrated with his wife and family and large household from England for health reasons. In 1838 Green, in partnership with F. A. Powlett, took up (squatted upon) 28,000 acres of land, a station they named Moranding. About 1838 a police force was established and the police were located on Powlett and Green’s Station, about 2 and ½ miles north of Kilmore. The spot has since been known as Green’s Pinch. (A pinch being a steep climb). In 1844 they sold up to Tasmanian squatter Joseph Sutherland.

Griffin Street – John Griffin 1812-Oct 1876. Hotelier. John and Ellen Griffin arrived in Melbourne from Ireland in 1841. John’s “Farmers’ Arms Hotel” stood on the SE corner of Griffin street and the northern highway (formerly the Sydney road). John Griffin was a member of the first Shire Council and the Willowmavin Road Board. Meetings of this board were held in his hotel. Many dances were also held there. His eldest son John Griffin was Victoria’s first native born priest. John Griffin died in October 1876 and is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.

Hamilton Street – William Hamilton. 1802—1872. Squatter. William Hamilton took up Glenaroua Station on the Sugarloaf Creek outside Kilmore from 1838 till October 1882, as well as at Pyalong Station from February 1866 to June 1870. He is buried in the Kilmore General Cemetery.

Harrington Street (Kilmore East) – Named for Gerald Harrington who died in 1995. He owned the property to the east of the Hume and Hovell Reserve and Hunts Road from the 1950’s. He married Bernadette Kelly, daughter of John and Bridget Kelly and lived in O’Grady’s Road near the former Kilmore East Hotel. On the sale of his property in the early 1970’s, it was subdivided and Harrington street was created at the time. (Jim Lowden).

Highgate Road – Named for its high ground, which was probably the main road into Kilmore from the Willomavin Survey during the wet season.

Hunts Road – Thomas Hunt 1842-1934. Newspaper proprietor, journalist, banker and politician. In partnership with George Good and T.J. Ryan he formed the Kilmore Butter Factory which opened in 1892. He was associated with the Imperial Bank and became Kilmore’s member in the Legislative Assembly in 1874 Hunt co-formed the Kilmore Electric Light Company in 1907 and was also involved with the Agricultural Society.

Patrick Hunt (brother to Thomas). Major landholder in Kilmore East. Both Irish nationalists. President of the Kilmore Shire 1886, 1887, 1892.

John Street – Probably named for John Lamb, as this runs into the former Lamb Street, now Foote Street.

Junction Road – The junction of John and Murray Street and Highgate Road west of Brewery Hill.

Kelly’s Lane – Possibly after Patrick Kelly who owned land along the lane.

Lamb Street – Captain John Lamb 1790-1862. Naval Officer, politician, merchant and land speculator. Foote Street was originally known as Lamb Street. William Rutledge sold part of his survey land to a Sydney syndicate of three lawyers. Captain John Lamb was one of these and it is possible he did not even set foot in Kilmore as he resided in Sydney.

Lumsden Street – Thomas Lumsden 1819- 1868 Doctor, squatter and magistrate. Appointed coroner for the area in 1852.

Maher Street – A Pyalong pioneering family. James Alphius (J.A.) Maher wrote an early history of Kilmore — mainly of personal reminiscences entitled: The Tale of a Century – Kilmore (1837-1937)

MeKercher’s Road – Alexander McKercher 1818-1903. Prominent pioneer landowner at Bylands.

Meade Court (nth of Green’s Pinch) – Thomas de Courcy Meade 1822-1882. Born Bandon, Co. Cork., the son of a CE clergyman. He arrived in 1852, attracted to Victoria by the gold rush. Almost immediately he commenced work as Clerk of Courts at Kilmore. After 12 months he resigned to begin practice as a solicitor in Kilmore. Thomas Meade was a member of the Kilmore Road Board and its chairman in 1859 and a member of the Bylands and Glenburnie Road Board. He became active in Kilmore’s social life, especially horse racing and hunting. Thomas died in January 1882 and is buried in the Kilmore General cemetery near Drs. Bindley and Beaven.

Melbourne Street – William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848). First British Prime Minister under Queen Victoria, The city of Melbourne was named in his honour by Governor Bourke.

Melrose Drive – The well-known property ‘Melrose Hall’ farm was originally owned by Thomas De Courcy Meade. The property was originally named ‘Laurel Hill’. After his death in 1882 the property was purchased by Thomas Hunt.

Mill Street – In 1860 Mill Street divided the shops on the east side of Sydney Street. It led to and from Trainor’s flour mill (where the old Colonial Bank is now situated) on the west side of Sydney Street, from Patrick Sweet and Victoria Parade. In the early 1980s, the local council blocked through way access and created a mall.

Mitchell Street – Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell 1792-1855. Surveyor-General, explorer and overlander.

Murray Street – Murray Sweet probably named for General Sir George Murray (1772-1846), Secretary of State for the Colonies 1828-30.

Mollison Court – Alexander Fullerton Mollison, overlander, squatter and a licensee of Pyalong Station which he took up in 1838. He was appointed a J. P. in 1838. Alexander returned to England in 1860 and travelled extensively in Britain and Europe with his sisters. He came back to Australia in 1873 to live with his sister Elizabeth at Kew, where he died.

Alexander’s brother, William Thomas Mollison joined Alexander at Pyalong in January 1838 andwas a joint manager of Pyalong Station. A third brother (Crawford Mollison) joined them in 1839. In1850 Alexander sold his share of Pyalong Station to his brother William Mollison. William consequently sold the property in 1866 to William Hamilton, the owner of Glenaroua Station. William Mollison bought a suburban block at Kilmore and was appointed an honorary magistrate at Kilmore. He was a bachelor and died in England in 1886. (Kilmore on the Sydney Road;  Stilts & Kenyon. Pastoral licences of Port Philipp. 116; www. trinity. Shtml)

Monument Road – Named for the monument erected at the top of Monument Hill in 1924 to the memory of the explorers Hume and Hovell. The monument is constructed of bluestone from the gaol’s watch-house. It was built by returned soldiers after WWI to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the explorers’ overland journey, and the naming by the Country Roads Board of the Hume Highway. It was recently restored.

Moore Court and Cottage Crescent – Moore cottage which was once situated on the Lancefleld Road, was reputedly built in the 1860’s by Henry Van Heems, an early hardware store proprietor, amateur and later professional photographer and inventor. Samuel Robert Moore purchased the property in the early 1900’s and established a contract shearing shed and dipping centre there with John Henry Walter in 1912. The cottage has since been demolished. (Jim Lowden).

Morris Road – Henry 1819-1859 and Judith Morris 1820-1885. Early pioneers, hoteliers and prominent landholders. Henry was the second licensee of Kilmore’s first hotel ‘The Kilmore Inn’ in 1845. In 1856 he was elected to the first council and was also Kilmore’s first postmaster. He died in 1859 aged 40. In 1865, Henry Morris’ widow Judith, was the largest land holder and renter of premises in Kilmore. She donated land to the Government for the Post office and Court House and also for the Mechanic’s Institute for their hall across the road.

O’Grady Road (Kilmore East) – Patrick O’Grady 1814-1897 was a landowner near Wandong. For many years he lived where the Mobil service station is situated. He grew his own tobacco and operated a snuff and tobacco factory in Kilmore.

Old Mill Road/Mill Road – The former Albion flour mill still exists. Kilmore had a dependence on flour milling in its early development. Reay Clarke, a prominent early settler built the mill with his brother-in-law James McKenzie in 1856. It was sold the following year to Henry Wilson and remained in operation until 1894.

Patrick Street – St. Patrick c.385-c.46 1. Patron Saint of Ireland. Early Kilmore had a prominent Irish population. The Catholic Church was named for St. Patrick.

Payne’s Road (town outskirts) – The Hon. Thomas Henry Payne (1862-1932), M.L.C. bought the property “Woodburn” from the Beveridge family in 1907. The Payne family of “Woodburn” were noted for their Red Poll cattle in the 1920’s, (not Herefords), and exhibited them annually at the Melbourne Show from the 1920’s through to the 1960’s. Herefords were introduced to the Payne’s property “Woodburn” in the 1970’s. (Jim Lowden).

Piper Street – Mt. Piper was named by Hume and Hovell in 1824 after Captain John Piper, NSW collector of customs. Piper appears to have been a sponsor of the expedition. (Jim Lowden).

Pontisford Crt – Pontisford (or Pontesford) Station of 8000 acres, was situated two miles west of Kilmore. The station plan gives the name as Pontesford. The initial holders were brothers, Henry Holt and William Jones who transferred the run to A.D. & A.E. Tootal in 1846. In 1851 W.R. Looker and J.G. Mouatt took over, followed by Andrew Linton and then Charles Grattan Anderson who sold out ten years later.

Powlett Street – Frederick Armand Powlett 1809-1865. Public Servant Justice of the Peace, Chief Commissioner of Crown lands and Colonial Treasurer. Frederick Armand Powlett was born in England and came to Van Dieman’s land in 1837. After moving to the Port Phillip District in 1839, he accumulated large pastoral interests including a sheep station on the Moranding Run near Pyalong. In 1838 He was appointed one of the first of three Police Magistrates in the Port Philip District. He was also the first Gold Commissioner in Victoria and was a co-founder of the Melbourne Club and the Melbourne Cricket Club.

Railway Court – On some maps as Railway Parade. The present street signage indicates Railway Court. This short road off Sutherland Street leads to the former site of the Kilmore railway station which was established in 1888. The last passenger train on the line travelled to Heathcote on 9th November 1968.

Rutledge Street – William “Billy” Rutledge 1806 — 1876. Overlander, squatter, merchant land-owner and politician. William Rutledge was the founder of Kilmore. A Protestant Irishman, he arrived in NSW in 1829 age 23, where he established himself financially partly through successful land speculation. The opening of Port Phillip was timely. Rutledge purchased town lots of Melbourne land at the first sales held in Sydney. Among the surveys he took up in 1841 was his Willomavin Special Survey. He named Kilmore after his family home in County Cavan. He lived in Kilmore for a time but later settled in Port Fairy. William Rutledge became a  magistrate and a Member of Parliament.

Ryan’s Road – John Joseph Ryan ca 1884-1951. Businessman, butter factory proprietor and benefactor. His sister Ellen Mary Ryan owned four acres (lot 7 sect. 30) at the corner of Ryan’s Road and Foote Street from 1926. The residence was the former police superintendent’s house and was built in 1859.

Skehan Place (formerly Foote Street) – Barry Ambrose Skehan 1897-1961. Cabinet maker and upholster, funeral director, councillor and community worker. Barry conducted his business in the former Court House Hotel around 1932. He held the local agency for Graham Diggle, the Seymour undertaker but eventually went into the funeral business for himself. He was also a long time Shire councillor. A part of Foote Street was renamed Skehan Place in his honour in the late 1960s. The Skehans played a major role in Kilmore: Michael was an original tenant on the survey and Patrick, councillor and returning officer for the 1899 Federation Referendum. It is said that the first Catholic mass was held in a barn owned by Michael Skehan.

Society Street – The Total Abstinence Society Hall was located on the corner of this street. This was Kilmore’s first organisation, established in 1850.

Sutherland Street – (George) Joseph Sutherland 1800 —1875. Squatter, businessman and politician. Joseph Sutherland was born in Laing, Sutherlandshire, Scotland and arrived at Port Phillip in 1835. He leased the Moranding Run from October 1844 to December 1850 with his brother Robert and he may also have bought land at Bylands. The first Presbyterian meeting in the area was held in his woolshed in 1843. A Parish map of Bylands indicates a holding to J. Sutherland in the approximate area where Sutherland Street now is.

Sydney Street – Thomas Townshend, Viscount Sydney. British nobleman and Secretary of State for the Home Department. Captain Arthur Philip chose the site for Sydney for its harbour and fresh water supply and named it for his friend Viscount Sydney.

Tootle Street – See Broadhurst street

Trainers Drive – This road was named for horse trainers. Other street names in the estate are Hanover Court, after the famous US trotting stud and shoe manufacturer and Bremner Court, of unknown origin but could have been a Melbourne solicitor. (Jim Lowden)

Union Lane (Bylands) – The Union Hotel stood on the NW corner of Union Land and Sydney Road. The toll gate was on the opposite corner.

Victoria Parade – Alexandrina Victoria 1819 —1901. Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and Empress of India. She became Queen in 1837 and married Prince Albert in 1840. Queen Victoria is associated with Britain’s great age of industrial expansion, economic progress and – especially – empire. At her death, it was said, Britain had a worldwide empire on which the sun never set. She became the longest serving British monarch, reigning almost 64 years!

Wallder’s Road – The Wallder family have been butchers in Kilmore for many years. George Wallder is registered as a butcher in Kilmore in 1868. The Kilmore Examiner reported in 1872: “A Kyle having disposed of his business as butcher to Wallder Bros. retires from same”. C. Wallder elected councillor of Kilmore Shire in 1875. Wallder’s butcher shop at 30 Sydney Street dates from 1905. The original butchery business was established on this site in 1871 and was acquired by Donald Bantock in 1885; after his death it reverted to the Wallder family. The present building was erected by Fred W Wallder senior. The Wallder slaughterhouse was situated near the present tip on the road that now bears the family name.

White Street – Lieutenant-Colonel Henry John White 1784-1844. Soldier, overlander and squatter. Colonel White took up land in 1838 around Sunday Creek, after arriving at Port Phillip in 1837. He also had the license of the Belle Vue Station with his son Lieutenant Henry John White (1810-1869). In 1840 he took the license of Mt Piper Station with his second son Edward Riggs White (ca 1817-1853). Edward was a surveyor of the South Australian/Victorian boundary in 1849-51. He died in Kilmore.

Henry was a founding member of the Melbourne Club.

William Street – King William IV 1765-1837. This Street originally stretched from Bourke Street through to Union Street.

A number of housing developments have taken place in the town in recent years; predominantly the Golf Links and Willowmavin Estates. It is understood that the Golf Links Estate was originally farm land owned by the Clancy family. The Willowmavin Estate, off the Lancefield road was originally the Moore family farm.

A handy map of Kilmore is available free at the Kilmore Historical Society for members and visitors to the research centre. In the course of preparation for this article it was noted that Butlers Road, Glanville Drive and Mitchell Street have been omitted from the map’s index in the 2000 edition. Wilkie Drive is misspelled on the map.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to include every road name in the Kilmore district due to time and space constraints. Origins of some street names are unknown to the authors. However, should any of our readers have additional information relating to roads and those they are named for, or on the housing developments such as the Golf Links Estate, we would be very pleased to accept such information for possible inclusion in this newsletter from time to time.

With special thanks to Jim Lowden, Marg Gerhing (Curry/Sorraghan family researcher); Joyce Knight and Marguerite Fagg for information provided.


  1. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 3. 1851-1890. Melbourne, Melbourne University Press
  2. Billis R.V. and Kenyon A. S. Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip. Melbourne, Stockland Press, 1974
  3. Browne, Geoff. Biographical Register of the Victorian Parliament 1900-84. Melb. Vic. Govt Printing Office.
  4. Cabena, P. McRae, H. & Bladin, E. The Lands Manual; finding guide to Victorian land records. RHSV 1992
  5. Chambers, W. & R. Chambers Biographical Dictionary. London, 1961
  6. De Serville, Paul. Port Phillip gentlemen: and good society in Melbourne before the Gold rushes. Melbourne. Oxford University Press, 1980
  7. Maher, J. A., A Tale of a Century: Kilmore 1837-1937. Lowden reprint 1972
  8. Tucker, Maya. Kilmore on the Sydney Road. Kilmore, Shire of Kilmore, 1988
  9. The A-Z of Who’s Who in Australia’s History. Brookvale, NSW. Child & Associates, 1987
  10. Turton, Keith W. Farewell to the timberline: the history of the Heathcote Junction to Bendigo & associated Railways. Melbourne. Victorian Division, Australian Railway Historical Society, 1968.
  11. Australian Heritage Commission. Register of the National Estate Database. (Internet site).
  12. Newspapers: Kilmore Examiner, Kilmore Advertiser, Kilmore Free Press
  13. Parish maps of Bylands and Glenburnie and township map of Kilmore.
  14. 1856 electoral roil.
  15. Kilmore Heritage Study. Prepared for Shire of Kilmore by Planning Collaborative, Collingwood, 1982.
  16. Kilmore Biographical Register. Held by KHS
  17. Kilmore Historical Society Newsletter. Sept 1999
  18. Victorian BDM records.
  19. Death certificate of Alice Nancy Broadhurst 1898/12020

Lauriston – A Grand Old Dame

by Heather Knight

(Originally published in Kilmore Connections, December 2005)

The above photograph is of “Lauriston”. This grand home once stood on the hill near where June and Gordon Ryan later built their house in Clarke Street.

It is thought that “Lauriston” may have been built by Reay Clarke. Reay was a very early settler in Kilmore and Clarke Street is probably named after him. Early rate records for 1863 show Reay Clarke, a gentleman, rated for a house and  land in Clarke and Fltzroy Street.  Reay also built the Dunrobin Castle Hotel c. 1848. This hotel stood where the Auto Pro and Sports Stores are today at No. 75 Sydney St. Reay Clarke died in 1882 at Kilmore.

Rate records show that Ronald Donald McKay, auctioneer and mining agent, lived in a brick cottage of 8 rooms on Lots 6 and 7 Section 16, Fitzroy, Clarke and Albert Streets. McKay was there from at least 1892 (rate records for the 1880’s are missing) until 1904.

From 1905 we find Bartholomew Durkin, a Kilmore tailor, and members of his family owning the house until 1915.

From 1916 until 1920/21 the rate books show that Jane Ward lived in a cottage on Lots 1, 6 and 7 Section 16, Clarke Street. In January 1921 the Kilmore Advertiser announced that Mrs. Ward had disposed of her residence in Albert Street to Robert Bowers,  formerly of “Floradale”. In the following February the same paper contained an advertisement  for the sale of Mrs. J. Ward’s furniture at her property “Lauriston”.

The Bowers family (Agnes or Robert) owned the property until June 1927 when the Advertiser announced an auction of “Lauriston” in Fitzroy Street on account of Mrs. Robert Bowers.

From 1927/28 up until 1940 the house was rated in the names of Winifred, Bridget and Alice Clarke,Lots I and 2 Section 16 Clarke Street.

The Clarke family owned the house until 1974 when it was purchased by a Doctor Andrews who demolished the house, possibly sometime in the 1970’s. The land was later sold to June and Gordon Ryan who built their residence on the hill in the mid 1980’s.


  • Kilmore Advertiser 22 Jan 1921
  • Kilmore Advertiser19 Feb 1921
  • Kilmore Advertiser 25 June 1927
  • Kilmore Rate Records 1892-1940
  • The Clarkes of Tantaraboo by Graham Marshall.
  • Photo courtesy of Pat Clarke.
  • Thanks to June and Gordon Ryan and Pat Clarke for information and the loan of photos.

Centenary of WW1; Kilmore Remembers: Patrick Raymond Skehan


Private 1424

Patrick Raymond Skehan was born in Kilmore on April 27, 1894, the second son of Patrick and Amy (nee Grose) Skehan. Educated at Assumption College, Kilmore, he was a member of the Essendon Rifles Military Band (58th Reg.) and enlisted in the AIF at Broadmeadows on November 7, 1914, listing his occupation as Electrician.

Patrick sailed from Australia with the 2nd reinforcement to 7th Battalion on the HMAT “Clan Macgillivary” on February 2, 1915. On April 5, 1915, he embarked to join Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Gallipoli and took part in the landing on Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, where he celebrated his 21st birthday on April 27. In July he was buried in a SAP which was blown in by heavy shellfire from the German warship “Goeben”. Only two were recovered alive from the SAP due to their proximity to the main trench. He regained consciousness on route to Malta and was admitted to St. Andrews Hospital, Malta with shell shock and suffered semi paralyses for some time.

After Gallipoli, he was transferred to the 1st Pioneer battalion and sent to France. The following is a brief extract from his writings:

“I was a runner at Pozieres and was affected by explosions to the extent of being thrown over and the concussion gave me a headache. On the second time we were in the line I hopped over with about 40 other men to dig a shallow trench for the infantry to “hop off” from. On the following day a shrapnel shell burst right in front of me and for a time I was dazed thinking the whole of the shell had hit me, but after a rest I recovered, I had a G.S.W in the left knee. I went to England and did not rejoin until April 1917. At Passchendaele I was thrown out of a shell hole by concussion and on another occasion was thrown into one, but I carried on until October 1918. The M.O. wanted to send me away, but I asked to be allowed to remain with my unit. In October 1918, I contracted influenza and went to England.”

AWARDED THE MILITARY MEDAL; “HIS MAJESTY THE KING has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to the under mentioned soldier No. 1424 Private PATRICK RAYMOND SKEHAN”.

The citation reads:

“At Pozieres, France, on August 18, 1916, Pte. Skehan was detailed as a runner for Captain Speckual while 1st Avenue was under construction. During a heavy bombardment it was necessary to dispatch Pte. Skehan with a message to Lieut. O’Brien, on the way Pte. Skehan was hit on the knee by a piece of shrapnel but not withstanding this continued on his way, crawling on his hands and knees a distance of over 500 yards under continuous fire.”

He returned to Australia on the “City of Exeter” and was discharged on June 12, 1919. Due to his war service injuries suitable work was difficult to obtain, however, he worked as a casual labourer with the railways for a period, was appointed librarian in charge of the musical records at the Mildura University till its closure. He then returned to Moonee Ponds and finished his working life at the Maribynong ordnance factory. Blessed with a rich bass voice he often sang in operatic choruses and in St .Theresa’s choir, Essendon. Ocassionally he would visit family in Kilmore, travelling by train to Kilmore East and walking into the township. He never married and passed away on July 4, 1972, aged 78 years, and is buried in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery.

In addition to the Military Medal, Patrick was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His name appears on the Kilmore Shire Honour Roll at the Kilmore Memorial Hall.

Patrick Raymond Skehan in later life
Patrick Raymond Skehan in later life

KILMORE FREE PRESS October 28, 1915
At the Dardanelles

Private P. R., Skehan, son of Mr P. Skehan, J.P., Kilmore, thus writes from the Convalescent Camp, Malta, under date 20th August, to his parents :-

At last I’am on the road to recovery and hope to be soon back in the trenches with the boys. Our battalion, in fact the whole brigade, has suffered terribly, and very few of the originals are left. We have had some horrible experiences, I never thought I would get used to it so quickly it was just like some awful nightmare. Our brigade was the second one ashore, and landed at 9 o’clock. From early morning the “Jizzie”, Buchantte, London and Triumph had been bombarding the forts at Gallipoli, the transports standing just behind. While we were getting into the torpedo destroyers which took us to the small boats we were shelled with shrapnel. Then we had to board the small boats and the naval pinnaces took us ashore, a string of three and four little boats being towed by each one. Then the excitement started. As we neared the shore they turned the machine guns on us from the hills while their field guns fired shrapnel from the flanks. We had to jump from the boats into the water, which was four feet-deep, and rush for cover of the cliffs. It was there we saw the slaughter the landing party suffered. Boats were smashed to pieces by shells, ghastly looking corpses laying and sitting in drifting boats, and others had been shot as they set foot on dry land. We scaled the little hill and went on up Shrapnel Gully. The first days and nights were awful. One of the machine guns of the 7th were manned by Essendon boys, and all were either killed or wounded. I thought I was a goner a hundred times during that week. The second reinforcements joined up with the 7th at Mena two days before they left, but some of us were picked to go as a hold party for the F.A. on the Indian. We concentrated at Lemnos Island and were taken back to the 7th on the Galeka the night before we sailed to the Dardanelles. We entrenched on the top of Shrapnel Gully, and now our trenches run right along the top of three similar gullies and right down towards Kuthier. We have Indian mountain batteries at the back of us as well as our field artillery, well hidden in the ridges, also Scotch howitzer batteries, which fire right over the hills, while the battleships extend from Gaba Tebe right up to the Dardanelles. On 7th May we (2nd; Brigade, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions) proceeded to Cape Helles, at the end of the peninsula, to assist the naval divisions, French and Territorials. We advanced 500 yards from Hood and Drake battalions’ trenches against Acki Babi and got cut up again. We took a Turkish trench which was full of dead, killed by the warships’ shells. We were at Cape Helles three weeks. The British and French troops told us they also had a terrible time at that end as-indeed the large grave yards prove. Shortly after coming back from Gaba Tebe we saw the Triumph torpedoed. While at Cape Helles we saw the River Clyde transport beached high and dry. The Dublins and Munsters landed off her. Father Hearne, of Richmond, was our chaplain; he has gone to Alexandria after being under fire for a couple of stiff months. We blew some Turks up in a mine, and went up to the same caper again. The Turks are brave fellows and just don’t care a damn for death. After their last big charge in June they were killed in hundreds, falling dead off our parapets. Our position is called “A N Z A C,” meaning A New Zealand Army Corps. All nicknames become official, such as Quinn’s Post, Johnston’s Jolly, Pope’s Hill, etc., and the Turk’s big guns are also nicknamed, being known as Asiatic Annie, Lonely Liz, High Velocity Archibald etc. I will be back in the trenches in September, all going well. I of the few lucky ones to keep going from the first day until the middle of July.

[ Ref: 1915 ‘At the Dardanelles.’, Kilmore Free Press (Kilmore, Vic. : 1870 – 1954), 28 October, p. 2 Edition: MORNING., ]

Reproduced in the North Central Review, 28 April 2015, p15