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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.

References:

  • 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.

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The Durkin Family of Kilmore

By Heather Knight

(Originally published in Kilmore Connections, June 2003)

In 1890, Bartholomew Durkin, born in County Mayo, Ireland, married Clara Poulton. 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).

Records indicate that Bartholomew is buried with his parents Bartholomew and Norah, and sister Bridget in the Kilmore Catholic Cemetery; his name has not been added to the large monument. Joseph Durkin is commemorated on the Kilmore War Memorial, Kilmore Shire Honour Roll and Assumption College Honour Roll.

References:

  • 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 http://www.aa.gov.au

Archibald and Elizabeth Thom

The following article by Grahame Thom was originally published in the September 2003 edition of our Newsletter, Kilmore Connections

This is the story of Archibald and Elizabeth Thom who were the first white settlers at Beveridge.

Archibald Thom was baptised on 6 April 1787 at Eddlestone, Peebleshire, Scotland, the son of Alexander Thom, farmer, and Margaret Noteman (1). Eddlestone is a small town about 7 kilometres north of Peebles on the road to Edinburgh (2). His parents, Alexander and Margaret were married on 1 February 1783 in Edinburgh (3). In looking at the baptisms and marriages at that time for the parish of Eddlestone it would seem that Alexander and Margaret were not from that area as there are no earlier Thom entries prior to the baptisms of their children :-

  • Alexander on 2 December 1783
  • Peggy on 3 July 1785,
  • Archibald on 6 April 1787
  • Charles on 14 July 1789
  • Helen on 25 July 1791 (4)

There may have been other children. Archibald probably grew up and remained in the area gaining experience in farming until he left for Tasmania in about 1823.

Archibald’s future wife Elizabeth’s father George Stewart was baptised on 5 June 1787 at Eddlestone, Peebleshire, Scotland, the son of James Stewart, later described as a gentleman (5). Interestingly this was the same year Archibald Thom was born. It is reasonable to assume that the two families knew each other. George married Margaret Cook on 12 February 1810 in Edinburgh (6). Their first four children were born in Scotland :-

  • Eliza (Elizabeth) baptised at Eddlestone on 3 May 1811
  • Anne baptised at Eddlestone on 18 May 1813
  • Margaret baptised at Eddlestone on 13 May 1815 (7)
  • Gideon said to have been born in Edinburgh in 1819 (8)

Their next child was named Mary Andromeda and is said to have been born during the voyage to Hobart (9). Her second name is interesting as it is highly likely this is also the name of the ship they came on. A search revealed that the ship Andromeda arrived at Hobart on 7 May 1823 having departed from Leith, Scotland with 67 passengers including the Rev John Dunmore Lang for Sydney (10). The Hobart Town Gazette of 10 May 1823 (page 2) lists the cabin passengers for Hobart (about 40) but they do not include the Stewarts. However it is likely that the Stewart family did not sail for Sydney but left the Andromeda before it sailed on 24 July (11). On arrival in Sydney the number of passengers landed clearly indicates that more passengers than the number listed in the Hobart Town Gazette must have left the ship in Hobart “where nearly all the passengers remained” (12).

Archibald Thom arrived in Van Diemen’s Land prior to 1825 and it’s possible he travelled with the Stewarts. It is also possible that for a period after arrival Archibald and the Stewarts lived together at Stewarton (540 acres) in the Macquarie River area near Campbell Town (13). Four Stewart children were born in Van Diemen’s Land, Catherine in 1826, James in 1828, Helen in 1831 and George in 1833 (14), who died in 1838 at Stewarton (15).

In 1825 Archibald received a grant of 100 acres in the Lake River area which is a tributary of the Macquarie River (16). Archibald may have lived here but in 1829 he was living in Launceston for on 23 July 1829 at St Johns Church, Launceston, Archibald married George and Margaret Stewart’s first born child, Elizabeth. The church register states that Archibald was of the Parish of St Johns, Launceston and Elizabeth was from the Macquarie River (17). They had three children in Tasmania :-

  • Margaret born on 8 June 1830 and baptised on 1 December 1830 at Campbell Town, Van Diemen’s Land
  • Alexander born on 6 June 1832 and baptised on 20 November 1832 at Campbell Town, Van Diemen’s Land
  • Jane Kyle born on 3 june 1835 and baptised on 28 November 1835 at Campbell Town, Van Diemen’s Land (18)

All three were baptised by the Presbyterian minister John Mackersey. Interestingly Alexander’s aunt Helen Stewart who was born on 6 March 1831 was baptised during the same service as Alexander on 6 June 1832 (19) .

G W Noble, author of The Red Gate, A history of Alexandra, says on page 19 that Archibald Thom first settled at Eglintoun on the Tamar River near Launceston. I have not been able to confirm this.

In the mid 1830s settlers in northern Van Diemen’s Land were talking about prospects in settling across Bass Strait in the southern part of the then colony of New South Wales. Launceston identities John Batman and John Pascoe Fawkner with others sailed in 1834 and 1835 respectfully to establish the town of Port Phillip on the Yarra River, later to be called Melbourne. With fifteen other men Batman formed the Port Phillip Association and claimed 680,000 acres divided into seventeen large allotments, including one portion to the north allocated to George Mercer, the Association’s representative in London. Also reports by Major Thomas Mitchell following his expedition from Sydney in March 1836 describing the excellent open pastoral lands of “Australia Felix” caused a rush by squatters from the north and from Van Diemen’s Land (20).

Its likely that Archibald had talked to Batman and Fawkner before their departure and on hearing the above reports most of the Stewart children and Archibald decided to leave for Port Phillip and beyond, leaving James as the only Stewart child to raise a family in Tasmania :-

  • Gideon Stewart left Launceston on the Chili on 24 June 1836 for Port Phillip (21)
  • Anne and her husband Thomas Turnbull and two children Thomas and George in about 1837 (22) having married on 11 March 1833 at Stewarton (23)
  • Elizabeth, Archibald and two girls left Launceston on the ship Siren on 28 July 1837 for Port Phillip (24)
  • Margaret and her husband Robert Taylor in about 1839 (25) having married on 22 January 1838 at Hobart (26)
  • Mary, Catherine and Helen may have come as children with the Taylors or soon after as their father George died in early 1839 and was buried at Campbell Town (27). Nothing is known about their mother Margaret after 1833.

After arriving in Port Phillip in August 1837 Archibald probably discussed opportunities with John Batman and his supporters as he, Elizabeth and their two girls headed north and settled as squatters at Beveridge, then known as Mercer’s Vale (28). It is likely they had brought sheep and cattle with them from Tasmania. They built a hut near the spring which is adjacent to present day Spring Street, Beveridge. On 22 September 1837, William Lonsdale reported that Archibald had in his employ Henry Burnham, a convict holding a conditional pardon. As Henry had no authority to leave Van Diemen’s Land, Lonsdale had taken him into custody for return to VDL (29).

In 1836 George Russell wrote :-

On the third day we rode over an open tract of country to eastward of Mr Brodie’s place, it was at that time called Mercer Vale. A portion of this country was afterwards occupied by a Mr Archibald Thom from Tasmania and other settlers. The Sydney road passed through that part of the country and Mr Thom’s station was a favourite stopping place in the early days of the colony for travellers passing along the road (30).

On 1 April 1839 Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of the Governor of Tasmania Sir John Franklin, together with her party, left Launceston on the government brig Tamar for Port Phillip to undertake an overland trip to Sydney. Lady Franklin was a keen recorder and the following is an extract from her diary for 8 April 1839.

Messrs Thornloe & Cobb accompanied us to Thom’s in way to our day’s station-over Mr Thornloe’s open ground where Mr Cobb’s heifers feeding, a dotted green hill in front, Malcolm ‘s station & on. Fall into Sydney road at right angles & turn to right. Fell asleep, found myself on flat black soil, naked plains with small rocks in it extending to foot of pretty, lightly wooded hills, at foot of which is Mr Thom’s station-The hut was leaning forward, the mud falling away. It is tidy inside-found Mrs Thom a broad Scotch woman, dark. Mr Thom is rather an ill-looking person, he is from VDL & retains property there. Mr Thom has 3000 sheep & a few cattle for home use-& raises corn for his own consumption. They have been here 18 months or nearly 2 years. When they landed at Melbourne in August 1837 there was not a single house built. They have 3 children, a boy at school at Hobart Town, & 2 little girls here, running wild. Being on Sydney road causes them much interruption & probably expense & they are going to move 2 miles back. A man has just received a licence to set up a public house here which adds to their determination as their men would be ruined by it. Had damper & butter & small biscuits mixed with mutton fat, light snack-I was offered cold meat & heard there was dinner cooking for me, but nothing said to me about it. He gave feed of oats and chaff to all the horses.

Mr Thornloe left us here-Mr Cobb went on with us. lt was 14 miles hence to Green’s outstation & 18 to the upper house (31) where we were to sleep-country thin forest & a burned part not far from Thom’s was very green and bare. I was on pony. About half way to Green’s outstation, or at about 7 miles, we crossed a low part of the gentle ridge which divides the waters (32). Being tired by the pony, I walked a little and then sat on front bench of cart driven by Snachall. Found I liked this seat much better than inside. Met Captain Smyth on horseback gaily dressed in police costume, with a man dressed in green collar & front of native dog skin & straw broad brimmed hat-Captain Smyth came up in a very courtly manner to me who was ahead to pay his compliments. He had just heard of us-had been to Murrumbidgee about an unpleasant affair with cattle-and was going on to the settlement-he should join us on the Goulburn.

The sun set behind a ridge of wooded hills as we approached Green’s, where we disturbed the quails. He is building a new house of stones picked up nearby, the roof not yet shingled in-verandah along front-on entering see good room of 35 feet long-this is to be divided in 3. The house stands on the side of the bare hill whence can see over bare sloping foreground several ridges of hills, without being able to see into hollows. The situation is thought very pretty-it is decidedly best thought of as a run as any & the situation is admired-l should think, it more fresh & airy than any other-the water is good but only in the waterholes. The sheep are taken to Plenty to be washed, 9 miles off.

Mr Green had slept the night before at Mr Thom’s, where he is a frequent visitor & generally eats his Sunday dinner, going over on Saturday evening. Mr Thom sang his praises-also spoke of Mr Powlett as a gentleman-they were examples to the country-exemplary. Mr Green had been only 3 hours returned-he expected us, yet had nothing prepared-sheep however had been killed, but chops had to be cut from it for the purpose. After a long delay we sat down in his tiny hut on a floor of loose earth, with table fixed into it, carried off a bottle of his lemon syrup for our water-the tent was pitched for us. Dr Hobson had no sooner supped than he began skinning. He said all birds that feed on insects are difficult to skin-those which feed on grain are easily skinned. He observed today a number of parasitic plants on trees which never exhibit them in VDL as Gum & Wattle-some trees exhibit several different sorts (33).

Mr Noble further records in The Red Gate, A history of Alexandra (page 19) that :-

The Thoms were very strict and devout and whilst at Kilmore (probably this was meant to be Mercer’s Vale) successfully opposed an attempt to establish an inn nearby, by offering hospitality to travellers in their primitive home. Such an action, although based on principle, must have given endless toil for travellers were frequent while the farm work mounted. Nevertheless Mrs Thom coped with her guests from travelling stockmen to L a d y Franklin, the wife of the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and her staff.

It is likely that when Archibald heard in 1839 that the lands at Mercer’s Vale were to be sold by auction by the government he decided to move elsewhere. Probably in late 1839 he purchased 105
acres for 525 pounds, part of a large grant subdivided by Thomas Walker along the northern side of the Yarra River east of Darebin Creek (34).

In March 1840 Archibald unsuccessfully tried to sell his Yarra River property and the advertisement contains what appears to have been the first use of the name Ivanhoe (35). Its highly likely that Archibald and Elizabeth named this property Ivanhoe when it is realised that the author of the book Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott lived at Abbotsford in Scotland for many years before he died in 1832 (36). Its easy to conclude that the Thom and Stewart families probably read his books as they were being published during the time they lived nearby at Eddlestone. This property is now part of the present day suburb of Ivanhoe.

In April 1840 Arthur Hogue leased his 264 acre property Banyule to Archibald Thom for 200 pounds per annum (37). This property is further upstream from Ivanhoe and is located east of Rosanna Road,
Heidelberg. The municipality covering a number of suburbs in the area is now known as the City of Banyule.

Perhaps Archibald was in two minds about where to settle for at a Government Land Sales held in Melbourne on 10 and 11 June 1840 he paid 2944 pounds for 640 acres at Merriang (38). More research at the Land Titles Office would probably clarify some of these land transactions.

The author of Heidelberg, Donald S Garden on pages 26-27 considers that Archibald did little to improve Ivanhoe so it is likely that the Thom family lived there briefly, if at all, before Archibald put his energies into developing Banyule, for the owner Hogue had returned to England in 1841. In March 1841 a census was taken in the colony and on 5 March Archibald Thom and 15 others were recorded as living in a wood and brick house at Heidelberg; 13 of whom were free (39). In analysing the information recorded it would appear that the 16 people were Archibald and Elizabeth Thom, their children Margaret, Alexander and Jane, four male workers, three female servants and a family comprising husband and wife and two children. From known information about the Stewart children it does not appear that the family last mentioned are Stewarts (40). In 1842 Archibald and Elizabeth’s fourth and last child Elizabeth was born at Heidelberg (41).

In May 1843 Banyule was described as having an excellent ring fence with about 50 acres under cultivation. A considerable sum had been spent in establishing a substantial two storied cottage with seven rooms, out buildings, a garden and orchard (42). At this time the colonies experienced an economic downturn and it appears likely that Archibald had financial problems for he mortgaged Ivanhoe to Adam Pullar and John Porter in March 1843 and four months later Ivanhoe passed to them (43). Then in the same year Hogue sold Banyule (44).

While at Heidelberg its likely that Archibald also had an interest in partnership with his brother-in-law Gideon Stewart at the 17,600 acre Sunday Creek A Run (45) and the Thom family probably went there in 1843 from Heidelberg. The present town of Broadford is within this Run. Then after Sunday Creek was sold in August 1844 (46), Archibald appears to have owned or leased a property at Nine Mile Creek (47). In May 1845 he obtained a 7000 acre property east of the present town of Yea which they named Eglintoun (48). In 1848 the Port Phillip Herald reported this run had 3000 sheep (49). It was sold in February 1848 to William H Pettett and William Leyden Ker (50).

In 1838 Dr James Dickson purchased 9600 acres from the government east of Alexandra (51) and in 1844 he sold this property known as Dickson’s Run to John Christie Aitken (52) who sold it to Archibald Thom in March 1848 (53). The Run was described as “Bounded on the South and East by the River Goulburn to its junction with the Devil’s River, on the North by the top of the Goulburn Range to the boundary with Marshall, a portion of this line separates Dickson’s from the Run occupied by Mr Matson, on the West by the spur of the Goulburn Range immediately on the upper or East side of Dry Creek, this constitutes the boundary between Dickson’s Station and Mt Pleasant” (54).

This was the final move for Archibald and his family and they renamed the property Eildon as the surrounding countryside reminded them of the Eildon Hills in Scotland about 25 kilometres east of their birthplace (55). Soon after purchasing Eildon, Archibald had a boundary dispute with his neighbour James Moon Matson of Maintongoon. It took the parties nearly three years to resolve the dispute by agreeing that the boundary was the top of the mountain range between their properties and legal action ceased in June 1851 (56).

Again in partnership with brother-in-law Gideon Stewart, Archibald held Mt Pleasant Run for a short time from November 1849 till it was sold in 1850 to Pettet and Ker (57).

On 31 July 1854 Archibald applied to the government for the purchase of an additional 320 acres at Eildon at 20 shillings per acre. The application was approved on 17 January 1855 (58). It was on this parcel of land that Archibald built the family home.

In April 1858 Archibald visited Melbourne for on 1 May he signed his will there (59). Archibald appointed John Christie Aitken of Thornton and Donald McKenzie of Pleasant Banks as Trustees and Executors, and his wife Elizabeth as an Executor. He left 100 pounds to his daughter Jane Kyle Turnbull and 100 pounds to his daughter Elizabeth Emma (sic) on her marriage. Alexander Thom married Christina Campbell Menzies in 1858, Jane married her cousin George Turnbull in 1858 and Elizabeth married Henry Wood Anderson in 1873 (60). Their other daughter Margaret, who married Robert Stewart in 1867 (61) is not mentioned in Archibald’s will. Archibald left the 320 acre homestead block and his Eildon Station to his trustees on trust for the sole use by his wife and on her
death or marriage to his son Alexander Thom.

On 18 January 1862 Archibald was thrown from his gig and suffered serious injuries to his head and was taken to Yea for treatment. But three days later he died at Yea on 21 January 1862 aged 74 years and was buried the next day in Yea Cemetery (62). His estate was valued between 200 and 2000 pounds and probate was granted to John Christie Aitken and Donald McKenzie on 27 March 1862 with Elizabeth Stuart (sic) Thom reserving her right to be an executrix if she so desired (63).

During their life at Eildon Archibald and Elizabeth developed a good relationship with the local aborigines and when Archibald died Elizabeth was the only person who could persuade the aborigines who had come to the house wailing over his death, to return to their camps (64).

As Elizabeth was younger than Archibald by 24 years it is likely she continued to live at Eildon for some years perhaps with her son Alexander running the property. Alexander died (65) sometime before his mother and this probably caused Elizabeth to leave Eildon to live first with her daughter Margaret at Clunes and then to Smythesdale, south west of Ballarat to be with her daughter Elizabeth Anderson (66). Below is a letter Elizabeth wrote to her niece Maud Pinniger, aged 14 years, the daughter of her sister Helen and husband Thomas Wilkinson Pinniger, surveyor (67).

Smythesdale July 20th – ’87
My dearest Maud,

Thank you very much for the love]y apron. It looks to be too good for me. It is so beautifully worked. What labour you have bestowed on it.

I need not say how much I would like to have been with you this winter. It is the only place where I feel perfectly at home and happy. But, dear Maud, I have got much frailer since I saw you and am lame.

I have not been able to get to Church the last two Sundays and you know what a help that is to me. I try to go to the school when it is fine. They are so short of teachers.

Cousin Bessie goes on one side and Aggie on the other but I fear I will have to give it up. It is fine today, but the weather has been very chilly.

I trust Mama’s deafness is better. She has suffered so much. She has always been like a daughter to me and you know how much I love you all and I trust we will be together through eternity where there will be neither pain or sorrow. How thankful I was to hear you were restored to health, but you must take great care and not get cold. Your throat will get hardened again in time and dear Baby Mama said she was not very well. I hope she is better. Give her my fond love and tell her she is not to grow up delicate. Please God I may see you all sometime even on earth. The children here have grown so much. They are all good and kind to me. I will not write to Mama this week as I am writing to you. Tell her the swelling has gone from my hands and I am able to work. I get very dull when I cannot sew and this is not right of me.

Tell Mama she is not to do anything that will cause her to stoop and make the blood go to her head.

My best love to Papa and dear Sophie. Kind remembrances to all. You know I love you all and trust and pray God may bless you all, my dearest Maud. It is the prayer of your loving aunt.

E. Thom.

Elizabeth died of cancer of the breast on 24 November 1889, aged 78 years at Glen Oliphant near Smythesdale, the property of her daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Henry Wood Anderson. She was buried in Smythesdale cemetery (68).

In December 1907 Archibald and Elizabeth’s son-in-law Henry Wood Anderson of Glen Oliphant wrote to the Argus saying that “My wife is still living, and was born in Melbourne in 1842. Her father, the late Archibald Thom, of Eildon, Upper Goulburn, resided at Heidelberg in the very early days, and her mother often rode out hunting kangaroos with the late Sir William Stawell and others. For a time she resided at Mercer’s Vale, near Kilmore, which was a stopping place for the very earliest squatting pioneers.”(69)

So passed two pioneers of Australia who have left their mark in the names Ivanhoe and Eildon as well as Thom Street, Alexander and Thoms Road, Thornton. However there is nothing to commemorate Archibald and Elizabeth settling at Beveridge in 1837; maybe it’s time to correct this.

Notes

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, International Genealogical Index, <http://familysearch.org&gt;, August 2003
  2. Multimap <http://www.multimap.com&gt;, Great Britain, August 2003
  3. The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, International Genealogical Index, <http://familysearch.org&gt;, August 2003
  4. ibid
  5. ibid
  6. ibid
  7. ibid
  8. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, August 2003
  9. ibid
  10. Nicholson, Ian Hawkins, Shipping Arrivals and Departures, Tasmania, 1803-1833, 1983, p88
  11. Hobart Town Gazette, 24 July 1823, page 2
  12. Sydney Gazette, 7 August 1823, page 2
  13. McKay, Thelma, Register of Land Grants VDL 1824-1832, 1994
  14. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, May 2003
  15. Buchanan, A M, Index to Tasmanian Deaths/Burials 1797-1840, 1994, page 134
  16. McKay, Thelma, Register of Land Grants VDL 1824-1832, 1994
  17. State Library of Victoria, Tasmanian Marriages, Reel 1829/1333
  18. Presbyterian Baptismal Register, Launceston City Library, entries 18, 53 and 84
  19. ibid, entry 52
  20. Roberts, Stephen H, The Squatting Age in Australia 1835-1847, 1970, pages 147-165; Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, 1988, pages 24-25
  21. Syme M and Hart J, Passengers and Crew Departing Launceston 1833-1837, page 106
  22. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, August 2003
  23. McKay, Thelma, Van Diemen’s Land Early Marriages 1831-1840, Volume 2, 1993
  24. Syme M and Hart J, Passengers and Crew Departing Launceston 1833-1837, page 118
  25. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, August 2003
  26. McKay, Thelma, Van Diemen’s Land Early Marriages 1831-1840, Volume 2, 1993
  27. Buchanan, A M, Index to Tasmanian Deaths/Burials 1797-1840, 1994, page 134
  28. Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, 1988, page 24; Noble, G W, The Red Gate, A History of Alexandra, 1969, page 79: Payne, J W, The History of Beveridge, 1974, pages 2 and 3, and maps
  29. Historical Records of Victoria, Early Development of Melbourne 1836-39, 1984, Vol 3, page 364
  30. Russell, G, Narrative, 1936, page 114
  31. This is the station of Powlett and Green just north of Kilmore; Tucker, Maya V, Kilmore on the Sydney Road, 1988, pages 29-30
  32. I have concluded that this ridge is now the eastern end of Hidden Valley Boulevard, Hidden Valley
  33. Russell, Penny, This Errant Lady, 2002, pages 38-39
  34. Garden, Donald S, Heidelberg, 1973, pages 26
  35. Port Phillip Patriot, 2 March 1840, frame 786
  36. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th Edition, 1886, Vol 21, pages 544-551
  37. Garden, Donald S, Heidelberg, 1972, pages 26-27
  38. Port Phillip Herald, 12 June 1840, page 2
  39. State Records Authority of New South Wales, 1841 Census, Reels 2222 and 2509
  40. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, August 2003
  41. NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, <http:/www.bdm.nsw.gov.au>, Births 1842, August 2003
  42. Port Phillip Gazette, 6 May 1843, page 1
  43. Garden, Donald S, Heidelberg, 1973, pages 43
  44. ibid, page 27 – Note that the name Banyule was soon after used to identify another property at Heidelberg
  45. Noble, G W, The Red Gate – A History of Alexander, 1969, pages 14 and 79; Bride, T F, Letters from Victorian
    Pioneers, 1983, pages 215 and 216
  46. Billis, R V, and Kenyon A S, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip, 1974, page 283, Martindale H G, New Crossing Place, 1982, pages 21, 23 and 24, Fletcher B J, Broadford, A Regional History, 1975, pages 2 and 3
  47. Noble, G W, The Red Gate – A History of Alexander, 1969, page 19 and 79
  48. ibid;
  49. Port Phillip Herald, 5 August 1848, page 15
  50. Spreadborough, Robert and Anderson, Hugh, Victorian Squatters, 1983, page 52
  51. Noble, G W, The Red Gate – A History of Alexander, 1969, page 19 and 79
  52. ibid
  53. Spreadborough, Robert and Anderson, Hugh, Victorian Squatters, page 52
  54. Port Phillip Herald, 5 August 1848, page 8
  55. Multimap <http://www.multimap.com&gt;, Great Britain, August 2003
  56. Multimap <http://www.multimap.com&gt;, Great Britain, August 2003
  57. Billis, R V, and Kenyon A S, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip, 1974, page 148
  58. Morgan, Marjorie, Crown Lands Pre-emptive right applications: Victoria 1850-1854, 1987, page 29
  59. Public Record Office, Victoria, Wills, Series VPRS 7591, Unit 16, Item 4/168
  60. Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Pioneer Index, Marriages 1858 and 1873
  61. ibid, Marriages 1867
  62. Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Death Certificate, 1862/3322; Argus, 28 January 1862, page 4
  63. Public Record Office, Victoria, Wills, Series VPRS 28, Unit 41, Item 4/168
  64. Noble, G W, The Red Gate – A History of Alexander, 1969, page 19
  65. Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, August 2003, and from the death certificate
    of Elizabeth Thom, Alexander died between 1875 and 1889
  66. Unknown book, page 99, copy from The Woady Yaloak Historical Society to the author on 20 March 2003
  67. ibid, page 98; Stewart Family <http://www.geocities.com/rvoull/stewart.html&gt;, May 2003
  68. Victorian Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Death Certificate, 1889/18916; headstone Smythesdale Cemetery, Presbyterian, Section 5, Grave number 612/3
  69. Argus, 25 December 1907, page 5

The Willowmavin Road Board

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

In 1856 the colonial government of Victoria passed two acts to enable District Road Boards to be established in the Colony. The residents of Willowmavin must have decided this was a good idea at a meeting held on 26 July 1856. This was followed by a declaration by the administrator of the Government of Victoria that the Parish of Willowmavin be a District Road Board from 19 August 1856. Also the meeting submitted the following requisition to the Police Magistrate in Kilmore, which appeared in the Examiner on page one on 3 October 1856.

To Samuel De Vignoles, Esq, Police Magistrate, resident in Kilmore in the Colony of Victoria. We the undersigned, landholders and householders of the district proclaimed as “Willowmavin Road District”, request you will convene a meeting of landholders and householders in such Road District, to form a District Road Board for the purpose of superintending, providing for, and completing the construction, repair, and maintenance of roads in such Road District, and for the carrying out the provisions of the Acts of Council 16 Victoria, No 40, and 17 Victoria, No 29. Such meeting to be held at John Griffin’s House, “The Farmers’ Arms Hotel”, on the Sydney Road, within the said district, at the hour of 5 o’clock on Friday the 3rd day of October 1856.

Michael Kennedy, landowner
James Woods, landowner
William M’Kay, landowner
Peter Peace
James Thomas
Peter Peace, jun.
Marshal Burrows
James M’Kay
James Mooney, farmer
John Dwyer, farmer
Patrick Dwyer, farmer

Pursuant to the above requisition, I do hereby convene a meeting of landholders and householders in such Road District, at the time and place above mentioned.
S De Vignoles RM
Dated this 11th day of September 1856

The following is an extract from the minute book of the Willowmavin Road Board held by the Society regarding this meeting. John Kelly Trainor was elected to chair the meeting. Unfortunately the minutes do not reveal the names of all the people who attended the meeting. However the following motions were all carried unanimously.

  • Moved Michael English, seconded James Mooney, that there be nine members of the Board.
  • Moved James Mooney, seconded Michael English, that John Kelly Trainor be a member.
  • Moved Edward Leahy, seconded John Griffin, that James Mooney be a member.
  • Moved Patrick Molony, seconded Thomas Harrington, that James McCoy be a member.
  • Moved Patrick Madden, seconded James Mooney, that Michael English be a member.
  • Moved Michael English, seconded John Duggan, that Martin Ford be a member.
  • Moved John Duggan, seconded Michael Ryan, that Patrick Dwyer be a member.
  • Moved Michael Twohy, seconded Thomas Harrington, that Patrick Moloney be a member.
  • Moved Moved James Mooney, seconded Edward Leahy, that James Thomas be a member.
  • Moved James McCoy, seconded Patrick Madden, that John Griffin be a member.
  • Moved James Mooney, seconded Michael English, that the “assessment rate for the current year be one penny per acre pasture and one shilling per acre cultivated, and one shilling in the pound upon yearly valued rental of messages and tenements”.

At the first meeting of the Board held on 9 October 1856, the only business was to elect John Kelly Trainor as Chairman. At the second meeting held on 16 October 1856 the only business was to appoint Thomas J Ryan as Secretary for the first year. At the third meeting held on 23 October 1856 the Board considered two applications for the position of valuator from Edward Rafferty and James Wilson Osborn, but decided to re-advertise. At the fourth meeting held on 27 October 1856, the Board considered the same two applicants and decided to appoint Edward Rafferty. With these decisions made the Board commenced to collect rates and undertake road works in the Parish of Willowmavin.

The editor of the Examiner commented on the establishment of the Road Board on 17 October 1856 “that all success depends upon good management” and called upon “our friends of Bylands and Moranding to do likewise”. The Road Board operated until it became
part of the new Shire of Kilmore in 1875.

What happened to Pretty Sally?

The following article by Grahame Thom was originally published in the September 2007 edition of our Newsletter, Kilmore Connections

Many people know the name Pretty Sally Hill because the long climb up the hill from Wallan caused many a vehicleʼs radiator to boil. But little is known about Pretty Sally.

The key document linking Pretty Sally Hill and a person named Pretty Sally is the following report in the Argus on Friday 10 September 1847 :-

An accident occurred near Beveridgeʼs Swamp, on Wednesday last, which I am informed is likely to be attended with fatal results. Mrs Smith, better known as pretty Sally, was driving a Spring cart; one of the wheels of the vehicle coming in contact with a stump caused a capsize, when by some unaccountable means Mrs S. fell under the vehicle, which being alone, seriously crushed her before she was released.

The first official name for the hill was Big Hill, but in the early days the hill became known as Pretty Sally Hill. The official name today is Pretty Sally for the Trig Station at the top of the hill. As recorded in J A Maherʼs The Tale of a Century – Kilmore 1837-1937, John Taylor in the Seymour Telegraph of 3 November 1909 recounted what it was like to ride the mail cart from Melbourne in the early days and referred to Pretty Sally Hill. Then on page 105 Maher states :-

Whilst along the stock route, some distance westward from the present Highway, the lady herself, “Pretty Sally,” openly defiant of the law, supplied a “spot” of drink in exchange for coin of the realm.

The following is an extract from J W Payneʼs Pretty Sallyʼs Hill – A history of Wallan, Wandong & Bylands published in 1981 :-

In the Australian tradition of remembering best those who refuse to conform to the strictures of the law, Pretty Sally is remembered for operating an illegal shanty and eating house on the western side of Big Hill. The person in question was not the handsome slender young lady the name evokes, but a formidable woman of 114 kilograms, ʻas ugly as you would meet on a dayʼs marchʼ by one account.

The following is an extract from the Societyʼs 1967 booklet “A Taste of Old Kilmore” :-

A traveller of the early days William Ashton Coomer Robinson who in his book Truth Stranger than Fiction (published in 1861) told many strange tales, tramped over Pretty Sallyʼs Hill on his way to the
diggings. Robinson has left us a fine example of the journalistic style of those early days.

“We soon arrived at a mountain range (over part of which the road winds), called “Pretty Sallyʼs Hill, named after (with Australian transformation), a very stout and ugly old woman who kept an inn at its base.

Pretty Sally being fond of her cups, was brought home one unlucky day on a dray, in a highly spirituous state. Under such agency the mind is apt to travel into the imaginary regions of splendour; and in such a state of keen susceptibility, those mischievous elves flitting through the brain, with their magic wands, suddenly turned the homely conveyance into a carriage. The elegant lady was descending with pointed toe, in true aristocratic style, to place her foot upon the step, to conduct her to terra firma, when lo! she placed it in mid air; the elastic fluid soon yielding to the overwhelming pressure of two -and twenty stone. The heavy dame embracing her mother earth, like the meeting of long absent friends, so closely; her nervous system received such a shock, that in a brief space she was again doomed to measure her length, but this time not on, but below the terrestrial surface – she died.

This account I gathered from an eye-witness, who related the unfortunate circumstances in true colonial language; but as that elegant diction is fast losing popularity, I must only repeat a part of his version of the catastrophe –

“My word, sir, had you seen that overgrown huge mountain of flesh, as I saw it, fall from the dray, and roll over and over, you never would have forgotten it; the earth fairly shook from violent concussion.”

So it would seem that Mrs Smith, known as Pretty Sally, died soon after she was thrown from her dray on Wednesday 8 September 1847. In addition there seems to be a question as to the location of her shanty. Some say it was near the top of Pretty Sally Hill, while the last report above states it was at “its base”.

Assuming death took place, where would Pretty Sally have been buried? It was too early to be buried in the Wallan or Kilmore cemeteries. Was the body taken to Melbourne, or more likely, was she buried beside her shanty? The answer probably will never be known.

Another issue relates to her name. We know she was a Mrs Smith, but was her given name Sally, or was Sally a nickname? This lead me to see if I could find an entry in a church burial register. If she had died in 1847 then her death took place before the start of the civil registration of births, deaths and marriages.

I have checked and even obtained two burial certificates, using the official births, deaths and marriage indexes made available by both the Victorian and New South Wales Registrars, but found nothing I could relate to Pretty Sally. I also searched to the end of both death indexes looking for a Sally Smith, but again nothing relevant.

  • The 1847 burials I found in the Victorian index were:-
    Ann Smith, aged 25 years, Melbourne
  • Ann Smith aged 37, Stone Quarry, Geelong
  • Margaret Smith aged 30 years, Melbourne

I then thought that maybe Pretty Sally had married in the colony and found two entries :-

  • Ann Mills married David Smith, St James, Melbourne, 1841
  • Ann Weaver married William Smith, St James, Melbourne, 1846

The interesting issue here is that David and Ann had children in 1842, 1843, 1845 and 1846, and none recorded after 1846. But was our Pretty Sally of child bearing age? One description says she is old.

But it is likely that Pretty Sally operated the shanty by herself as no mention is made of a Mr Smith or children. Also as the name Pretty Sally Hill was in use at least prior to 1861 it would seem she was well
known and this seems to indicate the shanty had been in operation for some time, probably for a number of years. This could mean Pretty Sally arrived in the colony by herself under the name Mrs Smith.

Such is the interest in Pretty Sally that the great Australian writer and poet C J Dennis had this to say about her as published in the Herald on 2 December 1931 (page 8) :-

The diggers came from Bendigo,
From Albury the drovers,
From where the Goulburn waters flow
Came bearded teamsters travelling slow.
And all the brown bush rovers;
And where the road goes winding still
To drop to Melbourne valley,
They sought the shanty by the hill,
And called for beer and drank their fill,
And sparked with Pretty Sally.

The teamsters halted by the door
To give their horses water
And stood about the bar room floor
To ogle, while they had one more,
The shanty keeper’s daughter.
Diggers with gold from creek to claim
About her used to rally,
Shearers and booted stockmen came
And to the hill they gave her name,
For all loved Pretty Sally.

I see her now; a sparkling lass
Brim-full of fun and laughter.
And where the slow teams used to pass,
And swagmen paused to beg a glass,
Now motor cars speed after.
And when I seek the road anew
That dips down to the valley,
I see again that bearded crew,
And, of the lovers, wonder who
At last wed Pretty Sally.

None of this has solved the issues – who was Mrs “Pretty Sally” Smith and when did she die? If anyone can add to our knowledge of Pretty Sally could you please let us know.

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.”

References

  1. Web site <www.familysearch.org> 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 <worldconnect.rootsweb.com> – Bodie-Antle Family Tree, February 2006
  5. Web site <www.familysearch.org> Batch C111804, February 2006
  6. Ibid Batch M112052
  7. Web site <www.stirnet.com> – Gordon11, February 2006
  8. Web site <www.scotshistoryonline.co.uk> – 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 <www.prov.vic.gov.au> 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 familysearch.org 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 ancestry.com 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