Category Archives: Community

James and Isabella Thom

The following article by Grahame Thom about a Kilmore schoolteacher and his family was originally published in the June 2006 edition of our Newsletter, Kilmore Connections

James Thom was born on 26 April 1840 and christened on 7 May 1840 at Forgue, Aberdeenshire, the third child of seven and second son of William Thom and Mary Bodie (1). William, christened on 13 September 1812 at Marnoch, Banffshire, was the son of Alexander Thom and Isabel Ritchie (2), and married Mary Bodie at Auchterless, Aberdeenshire on 9 December 1834 (3). William died on 8 December 1890 and Mary on 5 September 1893; both are buried at Inverurie, Aberdeenshire (4).

Jamesʼ future wife, Isabella Clark Gordon was born on 6 September 1842 and christened on 8 October 1842 at Clatt, Aberdeenshire, the daughter of James Gordon and Elspet Clark (5). James and Elspet were married on 1 July 1827 at Keig, Aberdenshire (6). It is likely that James was the son of Sir James Gordon the 7th Bart of Gordonstoun and the 8th Bart of Letterfourie, and Mary Glendonwyn (7).

Forgue is about 13 km north of the nearest large town of Huntly, and Clatt is about 20 km south of Huntly. A well known institution, the Gordon Schools, was established in Huntly in 1839 and it is possible that both James and Isabella were educated at this School. Especially as it is reasonable to conclude they knew each other well before coming to Victoria. James received his training as a teacher before emigrating (8).

James arrived in Victoria prior to 9 July 1866 for on that day he was appointed as the master (teacher) at public school 525 at Reids Creek, a little village west of Beechworth (9). While at Reids Creek he sat for a teaching exam (10) and was appointed to the 2nd Division on 10 January 1868 (9). In writing home to his parents James probably wrote to Isabella as well and it is likely he asked her to come to Victoria to be his bride. Isabella arrived in Melbourne in July 1869 on the ship Kosciusko (11) and on 6 August 1869 James and Isabella were married in Beechworth (12).

Just prior to his wedding, James was transferred on 26 July 1869 to public school 305 at Hurdle Flat, 7 km south east of Beechworth (9). This was only a short appointment for on 1 January 1870 he was appointed head teacher at Kilmore public school 353 known as the Kilmore Free Church of Scotland School at the rear of St Andrews Church (9). The Thoms remained in Kilmore for many years and the following children were born there.

  • James Lawson Thom born 1870, died 1872, buried in Kilmore General Cemetery
  • Gordon William Thom born 20 August 1871, engineer, married Hester Charlotte von Stieglitz in 1906, one child, died 6 May 1956.
  • Francis (Frank) Edward Thom born 25 October 1872, public servant, married
  • Agnes Deborah Thomson, 4 children, died December 1948
  • Lewis Stanley Thom, born 1874, died 3 April 1875, buried in Kilmore General Cemetery
  • Mary Grace Eliza Thom born 17 January 1876, died Ararat 17 April 1894
  • Isabella (Ella) Melville Thom born 10 January 1878, married
  • Edgar Charles Brewster in 1910, two children, died 4 November 1925
  • Leslie Niven Thom born 22 November 1879, teacher and patent attorney, married Sarah Jane Anderson, three children, died 6 May 1962
  • Elsie Lillian (Dollie) Thom born 7 November 1881, married Douglas Potter, auctioneer, two children, died 5 August 1965
  • Winifred (Winnie) May Thom born 1 March 1885, secretary, War Office, Southern Command, Melbourne, died 30 November 1943
  • Agnes Thom born 7 December 1886, died 18 November 1979 (13)

In the early years of Kilmore there were three public schools connected to three different churches. In 1872 the new Education Act provided for free, secular and compulsory education. Therefore it was not surprising that the Education Department quickly decided to build a larger public school at Kilmore with the intention of closing the three existing schools. This caused a lot of discussion by the residents of Kilmore and petitions on behalf of the teachers seeking appointments to the new school were lodged with the Minister of Education (14). Appointments were made and Public School 1568 opened in May 1875 with James being appointed as special assistant teacher from 1 May 1875 at £4 a week. He was promoted to 1st Assistant teacher on 22 January 1880, temporary head teacher from 11 October 1880 and permanent head teacher on 21 January 1882 (9).

James was a well respected headmaster and teacher and received good reports from the school inspectors during his career. The following are noted on his official record about his teaching while at Kilmore (9):-

27 March 1874 Mr Geary reported “manages the school very creditably – is careful and zealous in his teaching – preserves a quiet attractive manner”

19 May 1874 Mr Main reported “a very good assistant – I prefer his work as an assistant to his management as a H. T.”

17 September 1882 Mr Rice reported “An intelligent capable teacher; seems interested in his work.”

8 October 1884 Mr Tynan reported “Industrious; earnest & desirous of giving satisfaction to the Dept: He is perhaps to better scholar than a teacher.”

15 October 1885 Mr Tynan reported “An earnest conscientious man & an intelligent and capable teacher; not brilliant or showy, but sound.”

22 October 1886 Mr Tynan reported “A careful, industrious and conscientious teacher who has the school in a satisfactory state as regards instruction. He is not a disciplinarian of the highest order.”

18 August 1888 Mr Tynan reported “Conscientious and competent in all respects save as a disciplinarian.”

It is interesting to compare the final two above with the first report at Ararat school.

8 July 1890 Mr Roche reported “An efficient teacher, very zealous, and interested in the progress of his pupils. Discipline very good. The children seem orderly and industrious.”

On 16 December 1880 the following appeared in the Kilmore Free Press (page 2 col c),

Mr P F Flynn son of our respected townsman Mr John Flynn, has successfully passed the entrance examination of the University of Dublin, attaining a place in the honours list. Speaks well for the teaching he received here whilst under the charge of Mr Thom.

From the above it is reasonable to conclude that teaching the youth of Kilmore in those days was in good hands. But what of the Thom family life outside of the school?

On 4 August 1871, James, along with many other Kilmore men from Scotland, joined the Kilmore Lodge of the Order of St Andrew (15). By paying a regular subscription James and his family were covered financially for any costs related to illness; it was a form of health insurance. On joining James certified that he and Isabella were of good health.

Sadly their first born child, James died in 1872 aged 2 years, and then in April 1875 Lewis died aged 7 months, it is said, of diphtheria (13). In August 1877 the Kilmore Free Press reported an outbreak of diphtheria, with two children of James and Isabella being ill but “progressing favourably” (16).

In 1871 the Kilmore rate books list James as having a house on the corner of Union and Fitzroy Streets; then 1872 and 1873, house and land in Fitzroy Street, and in 1874 house and land on the corner of Albert and Fitzroy Streets (17). In early 1876 James appealed against a rate valuation by the Kilmore Shire Council, but failed on a technicality as he had not stated in his appeal that he was “aggrieved” as required under the Local Government Act. He was not alone in having an appeal dismissed for this reason (18).

At a meeting on 3 June 1876, the Kilmore Shire Council considered an objection lodged by the Colonial Bank against an application to enclose the Market Reserve as it would close an access route to a house owned by the Bank and occupied by the Thom family; no action was taken by Council (19). The Market Reserve was on the western side of Albert Street, between Union and Gipps Streets.

A contributor to the Kilmore Free Press, under the name Athmos, recalled in 1931 that James lived in a house in Victoria Parade, between Gipps and Union Streets (20). This is confirmed by an advertisement in the Free Press on 5 December 1878, (page 3, col d), which reads “To let or sell. Cottage in Victoria street, lately occupied by Mr James Thom. Apply Colonial Bank.” Where did the Thom family live next?

A clue comes from an advertisement in the Kilmore Free Press on 9 August 1883 (page 3, col b) – Wanted a General Servant, Apply Mrs. Thom, State School; Kilmore. Not long after the opening of the new school, tenders were called for the erection of a residence for the headmaster on the north-west corner of the school grounds. A wooden house of four rooms was built and occupied on 29 April 1878 with the rental being £20 a year. Another room was added in 1884 (21). So it would appear James and his family moved from Victoria Street in April 1878 and lived in the headmasterʼs house until they left Kilmore.

In June 1882 the Kilmore Council considered as request from J. H. Rose and others, asking to have the name of Jas Thom placed on the roll as a trustee for Oddfellows’ Hall. However the Council decided to let the matter be dealt with by the Revision Court. I wonder what was the outcome. One gets the felling that religion played a part in this decision (22).

History repeats itself for on 8 June 1882 James complained of the filthy condition of the channels in front of the School. And just three months later the School was closed as a result of his family coming down with diphtheria (23).

It’s interesting to learn in the Free Press on 29 March 1883, (page 3, cold), that James advertised that evening classes will commence on
Monday, 1 April at the State School.

In 1885-86 James was President of the Kilmore Mechanicsʼ Institute and in 1887-88 Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages (24).

In 1887 the colonies celebrated the Queenʼs Jubilee. But in Kilmore, the Council, dominated by Irish Catholic men, decided not to participate in the celebrations. It was reported in the press that Kilmore was the only town in the colony not to support the Jubilee celebrations. So the loyal citizens of Kilmore called a meeting and decided to form a committee to give every child in Kilmore a treat, hold a procession and have a bonfire on 22 June. James Thom was a member of the committee (25).

James ceased being a teacher at Kilmore on 30 November 1888 (9). Friends and fellow teachers were invited to a farewell dinner that night at the Royal Oak Hotel. The Kilmore Advertiser reported “Last Friday evening Mr. James Thom, lately head teacher of the local State School, was entertained at the Royal Oak Hotel on the occasion of his departure from Kilmore, and presented with a purse of sovereigns by the public, and a valuable writing desk by the teachers and scholars, and Mrs. Thom with a hansome biscuit barrel. About 40 gentlemen were present and a very enjoyable evening was spent.” The Kilmore Free Press also reported that “We need only say that we consider Mr. Thom was well worthy of all the respect shown him, and we wish him every success in his new sphere.” (26)

His next appointment was head teacher of public school 1719 at Broomfield, north of Ballarat. (9). It is possible he did not take up this position for shortly afterwards on 13 February 1889 James was appointed as head teacher at Ararat Public School number 800. He retired from teaching at Ararat on 2 November 1894 on a pension of £141.2.2 based on his average salary over the past three years of £302.7.6 (9).

In retirement James, Isabella and their family first lived at Parkville, Melbourne, where some of their children attended the Melbourne University Special School. In about 1905 they moved to live at Brighton, probably with several of their children including daughters Winifred and Agnes who probably looked after their parents (24). It is likely that James did some work as a representative of the AMP Society (27).

Jamesʼ death was reported in the Argus on 3 September 1920 (page 1) “On the 1st September at his residence “Ythan” (28), Windermere
Crescent, Middle Brighton, James, the dearly loved husband of Isabella Thom. Isabellaʼs death was reported in the Argus on 2 December 1927 (page 1) “On 30 November, at her residence “Ythan”, Windermere Crescent, Brighton Beach, Isabella Clarke, relict of the late James Thom; sister of Rev Samuel Gordon MA, BD (London, England) and the dearly loved mother of Winifred M and Agnes Thom. They were both buried in Brighton Cemetery.

The following obituary appeared in the Kilmore Free Press on 9 September 1920 (page 4 col b) :-

“Mr Jas Thom, who died at Melbourne on 1st Instant, was for many years a highly respected resident of Kilmore, and for a period prior to retirement from the service was head teacher of Kilmore State School. He had attained the age of 80 years, and was a quiet unassuming gentleman of high attainments and a most estimable character.”


  1. Web site <> Batch C111944 and Thom family notes held by the Kilmore Historical Society, February 2006
  2. Ibid Batch C111612
  3. Ibid Batch M111734
  4. Web site <> – Bodie-Antle Family Tree, February 2006
  5. Web site <> Batch C111804, February 2006
  6. Ibid Batch M112052
  7. Web site <> – Gordon11, February 2006
  8. Web site <> – Gordon Schools, February 2006
  9. Public Record Office Victoria, mfm VPRS 13718 – Teacher Record Books Number 2065, Blake, L. J., general editor, Vision and realisation: a centenary history of state education in Victoria, and Bailliere, The Victorian Official Post Office Directory
  10. Web site <> Index to VPRS 907 Examination Papers, Boards of Teachers, February 2006
  11. Ibid – Index to Unassisted Immigration to Victoria 1852-1923, February 2006
  12. Winifredʼs birth certificate No 4589/1885 held by the Kilmore Historical Society, and the Victorian Digger Index
  13. Thom family notes held by the Kilmore Historical Society, and the Victorian Digger Index
  14. Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, pages 136-137
  15. Copies of the Order of St Andrew Kilmore Lodge held by the Kilmore Historical Society
  16. Kilmore Free Press, 9 August 1877, page 2, col c
  17. Kilmore Shire Council Rate Books held by the Kilmore Historical Society
  18. Kilmore Advertiser, 13 April 1876, page 2, col b
  19. Ibid, 6 July 1876
  20. Kilmore Free Press, 8 October 1931, Victoria Parade by Athmos
  21. Ibid, 8 July 1975, Early School History
  22. Ibid, 8 June 1882, page 2, col 5
  23. Ibid, page 2, col e, and 7 September 1882, page 2, col b
  24. Thom family notes held by the Kilmore Historical Society
  25. Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, pages 150-151
  26. Kilmore Free Press, 29 November 1888, page 5, col d, Kilmore Advertiser, 8 December 1888, page 2, col c, Kilmore Free Press, 6 December 1888, page 2, col 5
  27. Kilmore Advertiser, 11 September 1920
  28. The river Ythan in Aberdeenshire originates from a convergence of small burns in the vicinity of Ythan Wells near Auchterless not far from where both James and Isabella were born. The river is approximately 63 kilometres long running through the villages of Fyvie and Methlick and the town of Ellon to reach the sea at Newburgh some 12 miles north of Aberdeen.

Kilmore Public Cemetery – Crane and Hammond

The following article by Grahame Thom was originally published in the December 2009 edition of our Newsletter, Kilmore Connections

On Sunday 25 October [2009], the Society conducted two successful events, first a tour of Kilmore Public Cemetery and second a lecture on the WW1 Australian soldiers remains recently found at Fromelles.

In preparing for the Cemetery tour I decided to feature two Kilmore residents whose passing are inscribed on two headstones in the cemetery; Samuel Ernest Crane and John Hammond. By doing this I wanted to demonstrate how reliable information can be gained quickly from the Societyʼs indexes and from searching the internet.

Crane family grave, Kilmore Public Cemetery
Crane family grave, Kilmore Public Cemetery

Samuel Ernest Crane

Private Samuel Ernest Crane AIF was killed in France on 20 April 1918, aged 36 years and his death was inscribed by his family on the Crane headstone in the Methodist Section. His parents were Sarah E Crane who died on 8 September 1909 and Thomas Crane who died in 1937.

Heather Knight checked her indexes and found a number of references. Samuel Ernest Craneʼs name appears on the Kilmore War Memorial, the Roll of Honour for the Kilmore State School, and the honour roll at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Also Heather found three references in the Kilmore Advertiser.

  • 25 May 1918 – a report of a memorial service for S E Crane, son of Mr T Crane
  • 14 June 1918 – a report that Thomas Crane had received a certificate as an expression of the loss of his son.
  • 20 July 1918 – a report that the Crane family had received a letter from the Chaplain of the 6th Battalion.

On the internet I checked the Commonwealth War Graves site and found a page “In memory of Private Samuel Ernest Crane, 2140, 6th Bn, Australian Infantry, AIF, who died aged 35 on 20 April 1918, son of Thomas and Sarah Elizabeth Crane, of Kilmore, Victoria, Australia, Remembered with Honour, Arneke British Cemetery, France”.

This cemetery contains 435 Commonwealth burials from WWI and five from WW2, and 126 French and five German war graves. The village of Arneke is about 50 kms south-east of Calais and eight kms north west of Cassel.

I then searched the National Archives of Australia web site and within the Defence records found Samuelʼs WWI file of 77 pages. The following is a limited extract from those pages. His enlistment paper shows that Samuel enlisted on 4 March 1915 at Broadmeadows. He then joined his Regiment, the 6th Batt Relief.

Samuel was an engineer, aged 32 years and 9 months, from Kilmore, Victoria, five foot six inches in height, weighed 11 stone eight pounds, fair complexion, grey eyes, brown hair, and religion Methodist, His next of kin was his father Thomas Crane of Kilmore, and he had served in the 5th Victorian Mounted Regiment in
South Africa.

Samuel served on Gallipoli in August 1915 and as a result of being wounded was shipped to England where he recovered in hospital at Hamstead After recovering he served in Egypt and then in France.
During this time he was promoted to Acting Corporal and then twice as Acting Sergeant but on embarking from England to France Samuel reverted to Private in October 1917. On 16 April while in action in France Samuel received gun shot wounds to both legs and died on 20 April 1918.

His army file contains letters to and from his father concerning Samuelʼs burial arrangements. His father was living at Fair View, Kilmore. Samuel was awarded 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

John Hammond

Readers will recall that as a result of advice submitted to Council by Heather, a small access road near the Kilmore Post Office has been called John Hammond Place. The Hammond familyʼs headstone in the Anglican Section of the Kilmore Public Cemetery reveals that John Hammond passed away on 20 March 1884.

Heather provided the following obituaries.

Kilmore Advertiser 22 March 1884 page 3
“Death of Mr. John Hammond.
We regret exceedingly to have to record the death of Mr. John Hammond, the well known livery stable and hotelkeeper, which took place at his residence, the Red Lion Hotel, on Thursday morning. He had been ailing for some time, but only took to his bed about three weeks ago, and gradually sank until he died. Mr. Hammond, who was a very old resident of Kilmore, was born of humble but respectable parents in the county of Northampton, England, and was at the age of 14 years apprenticed as a wheelwright to Mr. William Butcher, of Fostersʼ Booth, in the parish of Pallishall, county of Northampton. Having served seven years, he wrought some time as journeyman, and shortly afterwards left England for the colonies, arriving in Kilmore from Queensland some 32 years ago. He was at once employed by the late Mr. Wm Beckett, whose shop old residents will remember being situated in the small paddock now enclosed and known as Rose Cottage property. After working for some time with Mr. Beckett, he commenced business in company with Mr. George Lansley, late of Kilmore, and now of Mooroopna. This was carried on in Sydney Street on the present site of the Bank of Victoria, until Mr. Lansley left, when Mr. Hammond continued the business, combining with it that of livery stable keeper. On Messrs Spurling and Palmer giving up business as livery stable keepers, Mr. Hammond removed to their new premises, where he soon established himself, and became a great favourite with the travelling public. Some years ago he rented the Red Lion Hotel, which was creditably conducted by him; he was also contractor for the mails between Kilmore and the railway station, and in every position gave uniform satisfaction. He was of a very kind and generous disposition, and universally respected. His loss will be keenly felt by those who had occasion to come in daily contact with him. He leaves a widow and several children, three of whom are of tender years. Much sympathy is expressed for all his sorrowing relations, and deep regret that the town should lose such an honored and respected resident. Mr. Hammond was 59 years of age at the time of his death, and as a mark of respect to his memory, almost all the shops in Sydney Street have been shuttered for the past two days. The funeral takes place this afternoon at three oʼclock.”

Kilmore Free Press 27 March 1884.
“Mr. John Hammond, whose serious illness we announced a fortnight ago, died on Thursday morning last. Deceased gentleman, who had been a resident of Kilmore for over 30 years, had been ailing for sometime past but never gave up is really active occupation, being certainly one of the most industrious in our midst, until within a few days of his succumbing to the inevitable. We have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Hammond for more than a quarter of a century, during which time he carried on a wheelwright and blacksmithʼs establishment on or close to the site now occupied by the Bank of Victoria, the livery stables formerly kept by Spurling and Palmer, and lastly the Red Lion Hotel, in all of which avocations he was attentive and obliging. Deceased reared a large family in our midst, for whom the strongest sympathy is felt in their loss. That he was generally respected was evinced by the large number who attended the funeral on Saturday. Mr. Hammond was 63 years of age at the time of his death.”

Kilmore Advertiser 29 March 1884 page 2
“The funeral of Mr. John Hammond, of the Red Lion Hotel, took place on Saturday last, and it was one of the largest yet seen in the district. At 3 oʼclock the corpse was removed to Christ Church, where the impressive service of the Church of England was read by the Rev. A. E. Harris, in the absence of the Rev. A. Toomath. At the conclusion of the service, the burial hymn “When our heads are bowed with woe,” was sung by the choir, and the Dead March in Saul played on the organ. The cortege then proceeded along Union and Sydney streets to the General Cemetery, where the last obsequies were held. Mr. Weisel had charge of the funeral arrangements.”

Using the internet I found on the web site that John Hammond was baptised on 21 September 1823 at Pattishall, Northampton, the son of Thomas and Ann Hammond.

The 1841 Census of England and Wales on the web site revealed that John Hammond, aged 15 years (ages rounded down to nearest five years), apprentice, was living in Pallishall at the home of the Butcher family, with William Butcher, aged 40 years, wheelwright as head of the household.

I then checked the probate records held by the Public Records Office of Victoria and was able to download from the PROV web site, at no cost a copy of Johnʼs will and other related papers. John Hammond, hotelkeeper, left his estate in trust to his executors Albert Lobb and Thomas Lade, both graziers of Darraweit Guim, for the benefit of his wife Maria who is to use the proceeds for the education of their daughters Elizabeth, Lucy, Mary, and Fanny. After the death of Maria and once the youngest had reached 21 years of age, the executors are to give each surviving daughter an equal share of his estate.

At the time of his death, Johnʼs estate was valued at £1019-17-0 and included two parcels of land; a blacksmithʼs forge in Sydney Street (£100) and 2 acres in Moranding (£10). His personal estate included 20 horses (£180.10.0), two omnibuses (£92.10.0), five buggies (£66.10.0), one waggonette (£20), and household furniture and effects (£359.6.6).

These are just examples of what can be found and further research will reveal more. For example, from the Victorian births, deaths and marriages indexes held by the Society, and there are a number of references to both the Crane and Hammond families in the three published histories of Kilmore :-

  • Kilmore – A tale of the century by J H Maher
  • Kilmore on the Sydney Road by Maya Tucker
  • Kilmore – Those that came before by Heather Knight

St. Patrick’s, Kilmore


This article on St. Patrick’s by Heather Knight was originally published in the first edition of our newsletter, Kilmore Connections, in Sept. 1999.

by Heather Knight

The Catholic parish of St. Patrick’s, Kilmore was established in 1849 and is the oldest inland Catholic parish in Victoria. The first priest, Fr. Charles Clarke took up his appointment on 21st April 1849. At the time, the parish was much larger than today and the Kilmore circuit included Gisborne, Woodend, Kyneton, Castlemaine, Eaglehawk, Echuca, Wodonga, Mansfield, Woods Point, Warburton, Donnybrook and of course Kilmore. Today the parish is a shadow of its former self and covers 600 square miles, from Kalkallo to halfway between Broadford and Tallarook and from Strath Creek in the east to Pyalong in the west.

Prior to the appointment of Fr. Clarke, it is believed that Fr. Ward from the parish of St. Francis (Melbourne) attended the needs of the Catholic members of the Kilmore community. The records of St. Francis show that masses were held in private dwellings in Kilmore prior to a church being built.


Fr. Clarke soon set about collecting funds to build a church and parsonage. However, a dispute arose as to the future location of the church between the Lands Department, who wanted the parish established at the Survey, (Willowmavin) and Bishop Goold, who insisted on the originally proposed Kilmore location. In the meantime, a temporary wooden church of paling slabs and shingles was built on Brewery Hill sometime between 1850 and 1854.

In January 1854, Fr. Clarke resigned, possibly because of a dispute over the planned church-school. He died three months later in Melbourne on April 21st 1854 and was buried in the Melbourne General cemetery.

Fr. Timothy O’Rourke succeeded Fr. Clarke in 1854 and initiated the building of a bluestone church-school. This building, used as a boy’s school, had two large rooms with extra small rooms for a master and a school- mistress. Rev. W. M. Finn passed through Kilmore sometime in 1869 or 1870 and was impressed by the school,  he commented that, ‘The school house is a building of large size, and one that scarcely has an equal outside Melbourne’.

In later years the boys’ school was handed over to the Sisters of Mercy as a primary school. Condemned by health authorities, it was unfortunately demolished in 1956. At the time of its demolition, the bluestone building had two classrooms and was run by the Marist Brothers for primary school boys. The present parish centre was built on the foundations of the old church building. There are varying opinions as to whether this building may also have been used as a church.

About 1855, under Fr. O’Rourke’s supervision, a small, solid bluestone church, known as St. Bridget’s was built at the Survey on 2 acres of land donated by George Jessop. Maher states that the church was used for services for two years before being blessed by Bishop Goold on 1st  November 1857.

St. Bridget’s was short lived however. When the Gavan Duffy Land Acts were passed in 1862, many of the tenants on the Survey left the area to select land in the north- eastern district. St. Bridget’s fell into disrepair and was closed. Bluestone from this church was later used to build the first section of the Sisters of Mercy Convent in 1873 (now Assumption College) and the statue of St. Bridget now stands in St. Patrick’s church.

St Patrick’s Church

At the centre of the parish’s activities today is the magnificent edifice that is St. Patrick’s Church. The bluestone church sits at the head of Rutledge Street, which provides the impression of a grand entrance. On the north side stands the presbytery and on the south side, the parish centre, where once the original bluestone church -school stood.

St. Patrick’s Church was begun in 1857 under the watchful eye of Fr. Timothy O’Rourke. The church is built of bluestone in the Gothic-Early English style and was designed by English architect Charles Hansom and executed by local architects. Mr. Sutherland of Melbourne was the builder. The foundation stone was laid on the 23rd of August, 1857 by Bishop Alipius Goold, and the church was dedicated and opened for services on 8th July 1860.

Extensions to the church were made between 1869 and 1871 under Fr. Branigan, who unfortunately did not live to see the completion of the work begun under his care. Bishop Goold blessed the church on  March 6th 1871,  nine months after the death of Fr. Branigan. The extensions were completed by Fr. Farrelly, who added the sanctuary and installed the altars. The High Altar was erected as a memorial to Frs. Branigan and O’Rourke. The High Altar was designed by W. W. Wardell, the architect of both St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s cathedrals and carved by Messrs. Farmer and Co. of London who also constructed the Lady Altar. Both Fr. O’Rourke and Fr. Branigan are interred in front of the Lady Altar. The total cost of building St. Patrick’s was estimated at between 10000 —12,000 pounds, the cost of the High Altar was 1200 pounds and the side- altar 800 pounds.

The stained glass window over the High Alter depicting the life of Jesus was completed at the Melbourne factory of Ferguson and Urie.

St. Patrick's Church and School, pre 1869
St. Patrick’s Church and School, pre 1869
St. Patrick's Church and Presbytery, ca. 1920
St. Patrick’s Church and Presbytery, ca. 1920
The Presbytery

Very little is known of the history of the presbytery, however it does seem that it may be almost as old as St. Patrick’s Church itself.  In October 1864, Archbishop Polding passed through Kilmore on his way to Sydney. The Archbishop was most impressed with the church buildings in Kilmore and in an extract from a letter it is significant that he mentions the presbytery, “We reached Kilmore where Fr. Brannigan and another priest were stationed. A beautiful large church, school and an excellent presbytery…..”

More evidence that the presbytery was built in the 1860’s comes once again from the pen of Rev. Finn. In his writings of 1870 he comments that “In order to enclose the Church, Presbytery and schools, a dwarf stone wall has been erected, on which rests an iron palisading of a good design, which gives the building a very excellent appearance.” Rev. Finn also makes mention that “The presbytery and well-laid-out extensive grounds are in thorough keeping with the ideas of Father O’Rourke.”

Catholic Presbytery, Kilmore
Catholic Presbytery, Kilmore

An extremely handsome building in its day, the presbytery featured turned wooden verandah posts and exquisitely delicate lace work on the verandah. Unfortunately, in the 1950’s rush to modernise and renovate, the lace work was removed and the wooden posts were used in the stable at the rear of the presbytery; the stable has since burnt down.

Other buildings in the St. Patrick’s parish, many of them instigated by Fr. Branigan included churches at Pyalong (1860), Heathcote (1862), Dabminga (1864), Tallarook (1865), Euroa and Romsey (1868), Emu Flat (1872) and Seymour (1873), Broadford (1887, Strath Creek (1888) and Wandong (1891). There were also schools built at Big Hill, Bylands, Pyalong, Moranding (1858), Tallarook (1864), Forbes (1865), Lancefield, and Reedy Creek (1866).


There have been eleven parish priests in St. Patrick’s parish in its 150 years. There have also been 83 assistant priests. In order the priests are:

Fr. Charles Clarke                         1849-1854

Fr. Timothy O’Rourke                1854-1860

Fr. Michael Branigan                  1860-1870

Fr. Michael Farrelly                     1870-1906

Fr. Laurence Martin                    1906-1921

Fr. Patrick S. Gleeson                 1921-1926

Fr. Timothy O’Sullivan              1926-1928

Fr. James McHugh                      1928-1942

Fr. James Clifford                        1942-1952

Monsignor Ken Morrison      1952-1977

Fr. Peter Rankin                          1977-present [as of Sept. 1999]

Fr. Farrelly was the longest serving parish priest of Kilmore, serving for 36 years until his death in 1906. Monsignor Morrison served 25 years and the present Fr. Rankin has spent 22 years as parish priest in Kilmore.

[Ed. Note: Fr. Peter Rankin retired in August 2012 after serving 35 years as parish priest. Fr. Grant O’Neill is the current serving parish priest.]

  1. Assumption College Annual (1926)
  2. Brochure to commemorate the 130th anniversary of St. Patrick’s Parish.
  3. Glimpses of North Eastern Victoria, By Rev. W.M. Finn, First Published by Catholic Bookselling 1870, Lowden 1971.
  4. Kilmore Heritage Study, 1982
  5. Kilmore Historical Society newsletters.
  6. Some of the Fruits of Fifty Years, Ecclesiastical Annals, Publisher A.H. Massina & Co. Melb. 1897.
  7. Victorian Churches, National Trust of Australia, Miles Lewis Ed.
Assumption College, Primary School, Church and Presbytery 1920. The white cottage in the front was the Gerraghty home and the cottage behind, the home of the Malonys.
Assumption College, Primary School, Church and Presbytery 1920.
The white cottage in the front was the Gerraghty home and the cottage behind, the home of the Malonys.

Kilmore’s Nurses, Soldiers and Sailor

From Kilmore Free Press, Thursday 12 June 1919

In the matter of being represented in the great war Kilmore occupies a proud position for it can claim the distinction of having representatives in the three mighty branches of Old England’s unbroken power – the Army, the Navy and the Red Cross.  Few provincial towns in Victoria can sustain such a boast.  In the army there are scores of soldiers from Kilmore occupying positions in practically every branch, including aviation and wireless;  the Red Cross is represented by Sister K. O’Connor and Sister M. Semple, whilst the navy lays claim to Paymaster Cadet Ian A. Hesford, who served on board the Melbourne in the North Sea.

The nurses, cadet and many soldiers having returned from active service, the opportunity was taken on Friday evening last to tender a public welcome home to them.  The Oddfellows’ hall was packed on the occasion, many people travelling miles to do honor to the returned warriors and nurses.  The hall was gaily decorated with bunting, including naval flags, whilst the stage was heavily laden with flowers.  Cr W. Crilley, J.P., acted as chairman, and read an apology from Mr A.F. Cameron, M..L.A, who was debarred through business from attending, but who extended a hearty welcome to all those returned.  Proceedings were opened by the Kilmore Citizens’ Band playing appropriate selections, and the audience singing the National Anthem and God Bless our Splendid Men.  Mr S.W. Baker of Broadford, who has a good reputation in Kilmore as a vocalist, sang The Deathless Army, and in reply to a spontaneous recall he sang another number, and later on, by request, Mr Baker further contributed to the pleasure of the evening, Mrs Baker playing the accompaniments very proficiently.  After Mr Baker’s first song an important official stood on a chair and peremptorily ordered there must be no encores, owing to the length of the programme – and most of the hearers fervently hoped the chair would tip up.

They, however, took no notice of the order on that occasion and recalled Mr Baker, who responded to the call.  Two chorus songs were given – Men of Harlech and March of the Cameron Men – the singers being Mrs Jos. Morrissey, Mrs Birrell, Mrs Drury, Misses M Sugden, E. Drury, O & A Holman and Messrs R J Barkla and W A Drury, and the voices blended nicely.

In a duet, The Mandoline, success was achieved by Misses A and O Holman, whilst Mr T R Wood’s humorous recitation about Jones Minor’s Recitation kept the audience simmering with amusement.  Mrs Jos Morrissey’s item The Bells of St Mary’s was very well received, and an encore was deserved.  Miss M Sugden was in good voice in her contribution I’ll Sing to You.  Mr R J Tymms gave a fine number in Peace and Glory (the Victory song) and well earned an encore, but the restriction was again observed;  this was the first time this song was heard in Kilmore, and a repetition by Mr Tymms would have been welcome.

Miss Hesford came next with a violin solo, introducing Scotch airs, and her imitation of the bagpipes was something to be remembered – it was just about perfection, and the great audience broke through the encore restriction and recalled Miss Hesford, declining to restore quietness until the young lady reappeared and gave another brilliant recital, for which she received further approbation;  the accompaniment was played by Miss O’Shea.  Mrs A W Govett was applauded for singing Poor Wandering One.    Miss O’Shea was listed to sing The Marseillaise, but substituted There’s a Land;  she did well in the latter song, and received merited applause, but the French National Anthem, not being often heard on Kilmore concert platforms, would have been a decided acquisition to this programme in particular, and it was eagerly expected.  Miss O’Shea’s powerful voice being quite capable of doing the song justice.  Miss Annie Wilson was a most efficient and sympathetic accompaniste.

The next item on the programme was the address of welcome to the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor, by Mr G A Maxwell MHR, who received a flattering reception upon entering the hall.

Mr G A Maxwell was then called upon to deliver an address of welcome to the returned nurses, sailor and soldiers.  Mr Maxwell was given a most cordial reception, and after a few preliminary remarks in lighter vein he became serious.  He said there was a maxim, “Good wine needs no bush.”  That also applied to the evening’s proceedings – a good subject, and needed no elaboration.  The people now were of one heart and one mind.  They were not quite so unsettled now as they were twelve months ago, when many were unmanned by the course events were taking.  At that time they were looking for recruits, for men were urgently wanted, the circumstances being so absolutely different.  In June last the Empire was under the darkest cloud of its existence, and he visited Kilmore and many other places with a recruiting party to ask the boys to go and help the boys at the front, for help was sorely wanted then.  Thank God there was no need for that now, and the feeling of all at present should be of devout thankfulness to Almighty God for His goodness.  Peace, however, had not come about yet;  it was only a cessation of hostilities.  They were not out of the wood yet;  there was yet a feeling of anxiety in men’s minds, but that feeling was not so strained as before, but yet it was a feeling that we were not altogether out of it.

He was pleased to know that some of the boys had returned, some were returning, but it saddened them to know that some, aye, many, would not return.  Since these nurses and soldiers left Australia their eyes had rested upon some exquisite landscape some of the most exquisite landscape in the world, but the landscape they saw upon returning to their own districts, was more exquisite than all, for was it not their home – Home, Sweet Home.  Anyone to see him on the platform welcoming returned nurses and soldiers might ask why a stranger should occupy such a position.  The answer was anybody had a right to be there.  The soldiers were not anybody’s in particular – they were ours.  They did not go to fight for Kilmore, they did not fight for him or anyone in particular, – they fought for the Empire. If a stranger came from the Gulf of Carpentaria he had equal rights to bid the nurses and soldiers welcome home.  The fever of fighting had not yet gone out of the blood of men, and the community had not so far settled down to its humdrum life again.  The soldiers had laid the whole of Australia under a very heavy debt of obligation, and that debt must be paid.  They had welcomed returning soldiers on all hands, and would continue to welcome them until all had returned.  Things would soon come down to the ordinary routine again, when all must be prepared to face the payment of the debt to the soldiers.  While in the thick of the fight the wounds were not felt in the excitement.

It was the next day when the wounds were stiff and sore that they felt it.  It was the same way with the soldiers’ debt of obligation.  When the day comes they must face in grim earnest the payment of that huge debt;  a debt of gratitude for what the boys and girls have done.  The task of paying that debt must be set out upon, and it lies upon the shoulders of every man, woman and child in Australia to pay toward it.  They must recognise that there will be drastic and still more drastic financial burden placed upon the people to pay off the debt.  Now that numbers were returning to Australia, the people must not lose an opportunity of helping the boys and girls who have done so much for them.  The Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Association had done much to help the returned men, and it was working hard to further their interests, but there were very many ways in which people could help in addition to the association.  Many hard cases had come under notice, and many more would come, and that was where the help of the people would be highly valuable. They must step in and help the returned soldiers on every possible occasion.

The soldiers have made a splendid record.  Each one had written his name on the honor roll of Australia for all time.  The soldier owed it to himself to make good.  He returned to his old community and he (Mr Maxwell) hoped the returned men would settle down to the duties of citizenship and do as well in private life as they had done at the front.  To do that would do a great deal toward cementing friendship with one another.  At the front the main spirit between the men was cobbership, and the same cobbership would prevail now amongst all.  For those men who had offered their lives and the offer had been accepted there was a strong feeling of admiration and sorrow.  Those men whose lives had been offered and not been accepted should out of gratitude settle down in citizenship and make good.  They had played the game like men over there;  don’t play the fool over here.  One knew a man by what he did.

These fellows had acquitted themselves splendidly at the front and their actions were admired by the whole world.  He (the speaker) appealed to them not to give way now and play the coward, but to acquit themselves as well in their career as citizens as they had as soldiers.  They had written their names on the Commonwealth scroll of honor, then let them make the best of the lives which had been given back to them.  Let them remember that they owed a deep debt of gratitude to Him Who had spared their lives, and the proper way to recognise that debt was to settle down as reputable citizens.  He (Mr Maxwell)  fervently welcomed home the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor on behalf of the people of Kilmore and wished them every happiness and prosperity.  (Continued applause.)

Chaplain-Captain Tolhurst (Presbyterian) in his usual breezy style, extended a warm welcome home to those who had returned from active service.  He was pleased to see that Kilmore had turned out in a body, or as much of it as the hall would hold, to bid welcome to the returned people.  He was very glad to see the two nurses returned home safely. He could speak with experience of the nurses, who represented a very large army indeed.  He had seen them in thousands in Egypt, but there were none at Gallipoli, because no women were allowed to land there, although he understood one did succeed in getting there.  During his service with the 6th Light Horse in Egypt he had many opportunities of seeing the sisters at work, and they were very courageous under fire.  They had also done great work in England and France.  He extended a hearty welcome home to all.

Rev. Father Martin (Roman Catholic), Rev J A Peck (Church of England), and Rev C Angwin (Methodist) also welcomed home the returned nurses, soldiers and sailor.

Mr Maxwell then on behalf of the people of Kilmore, presented the nurses, and soldiers each with a gold medal, suitably inscribed, and bearing the number and colors of their respective battalions.

Those receiving medals were Nurse K O’Connor, Nurse M Semple, Lieutenant Proudfoot, Sergeant Mabbett, Corporal Holman, Sapper Angwin, Sapper Luckie, Sapper Portbury, Gunner Lee, Gunner McLaurin, Driver Meade, Privates Hyde, Ahearn, Cavanagh, Delahunty, Dunphy, Glanville, Harrington, Jamieson, Pentland, Newton, Looney, Lincoln, Anderson, Tolhurst, Skehan, Smith, Joiner and Sheppard.

The medals were pinned on the nurses’ capes by Mr C McNab, and Miss Daisy Proudfoot pinned on the soldiers’ medals.  Amongst the men were two Anzacs, Privates J. Looney and R Skehan.  The whole of the recipients were cheered separately as they returned to their seats on the stage.

Lieutenant Proudfoot returned thanks on behalf of the nurses and the men. He also thanked the Kilmore Red Cross for sending parcels and comforts to the local boys at the front.  He said also that it gave him great pleasure to again meet Nurse O’Connor, as he had met her in 1917 at a clearing station on the field in active service, and there were much safer places in Australia than that.

Privates Smith, Dunphy, and Luckie and Paymaster-Cadet Hesford also responded.

Refreshments were then served and a very happy evening terminated.

One discordant note was struck during the presentation of medals by a busy official, bubbling over the importance, signalling out a soldier as “the pick of the bunch”.  The remark was coarse and most uncalled for, and has been generally resented, and very properly so.

The ladies of the Red Cross Society deserve the highest commendation for the way in which they arranged and carried out the welcome home.

Do You Remember? Kilmore, January 1970

The following featured in the Kilmore Free Press, Thursday 15 January 1970, page 4.

Here and There

Back to the grind for another year to bring you the latest and greatest.

We will try to present this column as regularly as possible during 1970, but please excuse us if it does not appear, as it all depends on time and space available.

____ X _____

Nice winter we are having this summer isn’t it?

How would you like to have paid big money to buy a milk bar at a beach resort, only to find holiday weather like we had?

But most of the beach belles got their sun tan under a ray lamp this season.

Thousands may have flocked to the bayside resorts expecting good beach weather, but judging by the number of cars passing through Kilmore, there were thousands who were awake to the un certainty of the Victorian climate and chose the country for their holidays.

Still can’t work out how that fellow seen in Sydney Street during the holidays managed to hang on to his trousers, after losing his belt, without dropping his armful of bottles.

Belt was still on the footpath the next day, but no sign of broken bottles.

Notice that Santa delivered a fair number of swimming pools to homes in Kilmore at Christmas.

We won’t need that proposed, delayed and almost forgotten public pool soon if he keeps that up each year!

Hear there is a move on to change Fighting Harada’s name to Dancing Harada after his fight last week with Australian champion Johnny Famechon. All the Jap. boy seemed to do was to hold our Johnny as if he wanted to dance… and then he was waltzed right out of the ring.

Local vet, Pat Mornane, has some pretty odd jobs to do at times, but one of his oddest came last week when he was called to remove a possum from a washing machine in the laundry of a Kilmore house.

Heard it said the other day that “Doc” Davon would probably be the first local fisherman to catch a fish which was larger around the girth than the angler who landed it.

See a quote by Shakespeare on the desk calendar yesterday read – “nature hath framed strange fellows in her time.” How very true!

Do You Remember? Assumption College Speech Day 1982

The following article featured in the Kilmore Free Press, Wednesday 22 December 1982, page 8.

Were you present? Did the Headmaster’s address impact on your life? Did he give good advice? Does it apply today? Did you enjoy your time at Kilmore’s Assumption College? What do others think?

Tough times … young people need to be resourceful and adaptive

Times are indeed tough for our young people, and they need to be resourceful and adaptive, while not becoming a “Jack of all trades and master of none”, Assumption College Headmaster, Brother Seamus O’Grady, said at the school’s annual speech day and prize-giving.

“The 90th year of the college’s existence has witnessed new developments in buildings, curriculum and student responsibilities. These are things that give us all much satisfaction, a feeling that the college is progressing, that it is adapting to meet the changing needs of our students and the society into which they must enter.

“But the life of the college has to be seen against the background of the world of the 80’s. An education that isolates itself from the context of its own society runs the risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant to the young people we serve.

“The gloom of recession hangs over our country, unemployment is taken for granted, even the drought has contributed to lowering our collective morale.

“Times are indeed tough for our young people. They need an education to at least year 11, which in turn can no longer be narrowly academic. “Career choosing” is the preserve of the intellectual elite. For most it is a question of adapting to what is available, rather than what they feel best suited for.

Security Not There

“Here you noticed how the term ‘dole bludger’ has dropped from our vocabulary and has been replaced by terms like ‘retrenchment’, ‘early retirement’, ‘job-creation’? Security is simply not available to many people.

“How does the school respond to this situation? On the one hand, it must to some extent shield its young ones from these harsh realities, to give them time to grow physically, mentally, emotionally … to give then an all too short space for being adolescent.

“With no time to dream visions of the future, our youth become too quickly disillusioned and disappearing. Small wonder that so many seek to live only for the present, indulge in drugs that numb the mind from reality.

On the other hand, school must gradually expose them to the complexities of life, the ambiguities of a society with which they must come to terms. This is no east task. It is a lot simpler to concentrate on reading, writing and arithmetic as some naive commentators claim to be the major function of a school.

“what advice can I give you parents? For a start, if you are comfortably secure, why not in a real spirit of Christian caring create jobs for young people? Give the young a chance to be productive. It will only cost you money!

“Secondly, be on guard against ‘single-issue education’, an education which focuses on only one aspect of the student’s development. A too narrow academic education – in itself no guarantee of adequate employment – may neglect the emotional and social aspects of human development, and produce a distorted human being incapable of entering a loving relationship.

“I am not suggesting that everyone should be a ‘Jack of all trades and master of none’, but, rather, that our young people need to be resourceful and adaptive.

Dignity and Value

“They are living in a world which regards change and new directions as commonplace in the human condition. Teachers and parents, drawing on experience and wisdom, need to ensure a balanced education is provided for the young people who are entering a society where survival may require a lot more than a job.

“ All activities that we enjoin on them should lead to a renewed sense of their own dignity and value, a quiet self-confidence, a warmth of character, and, importantly, a sense of humour. I guess Christ is still the best model of man to offer to young people.

“So schools and parents have to adapt. Caring for our young people requires a vision that are valuable beyond their productivity. We have to make greater efforts to discern their needs, capabilities and skills, to develop courses that address these needs, to work more closely with them as they move from the world of school to the world of work”, Brother Seamus said.