This month seven pioneers join the Pioneers Obituary Index including a banker, a blacksmith, and a man who inadvertently shaped my family history. As usual, I’ve included links to further information throughout the post so click on the underlined text to learn more.
CHIRNSIDE, Thomas – Died June 1887 at Werribee. As much as I’d like to look at Thomas Chirnside’s life story in-depth, it would need more space than I can give in this post. There are so many interesting facets of his life such as the many properties he owned, his contribution to thoroughbred breeding and racing in colonial Victoria, and his association with the Victorian Acclimatization Society. Instead, I’ll give you an overview of his life with links to further information and at the end.
Thomas Chirnside was born in 1815 at Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland. He left Scotland in 1838 and his first stop in Australia was at Adelaide in January 1839 before going on to Sydney. His younger brother Andrew arrived in Melbourne later in 1839 so Thomas travelled to meet him. The brothers then went on to Sydney to buy stock to take overland to Adelaide to sell. Thomas and Andrew then took up a run on the Loddon River in 1840, passed and named by Major Thomas Mitchell only four years before. From the Lodden, Thomas and Andrew followed the path of Mitchell again towards the Western District and in 1842 they found before them the highest peak in the Grampians named Mount William by Major Mitchell.
The land appealed to the brothers and they established a station named after the nearby peak. It was not without its dangers.
Thomas and Andrew went on to buy Mokanger station on the Wannon River near Cavendish in 1843 and in the years after, acquired properties such as Mount Emu Creek and Carranballac near Skipton (below) and Kenilworth South and Victoria Lagoon near Cavendish. By 1870 between them, they had acquired around 250,000 acres of land in Victoria.
The Chirnside name was soon connected with horse racing in the colony. It’s amazing to think they were standing thoroughbred stallions at stud in 1845, but while it was the early days of racing in Victoria it was happening decades before in New South Wales and Tasmania.
The Chirnsides were soon racing their progeny and it was Mount William station bred Alice Hawthorn in the late 1850s who brought them their first notable success. It appears Thomas was more interested in the breeding side of the business while Andrew was into racing, with many horses they bred raced in Andrew’s name including 1874 Melbourne Cup winner Haricot.
From 1849, Thomas began acquiring land at Wyndham, west of Melbourne and he soon built up an estate of 80,000 acres known as Werribee Park. As a member of the Victorian Acclimatisation Society, Thomas began importing animals from the old country, red deer, foxes, hares, pheasants, and partridges. It wasn’t long before “fine old English gentleman” were hunting the new arrivals around the vast expanse of Werribee Park.
Although a homestead and outbuildings were built in the early days at Werribee Park, in 1873 work started on a beautiful mansion.
Thomas lived at the mansion but in the years before his death, he moved to another of his properties, Point Cook where much of the Chirnsides’ thoroughbred breeding took place.
Thomas never married and as he reached old age in the 1880s, he signed all his property over to his brother and nephews except for Point Cook. Thomas did return to live at Werribee Park and took his own life there in 1887. He was buried at the Geelong Eastern Cemetery.
You can find more information about Thomas Chirnside on the following links
If it was not for Thomas Chirnside and his brother Andrew, my family history may have been very different. From the 1850s, my ggg grandfathers Charles Hadden and James Mortimer were employed by the Chirnsides. The Haddens came from Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland just thirty kilometres from Thomas Chirnside’s birthplace. Charles, his wife Agnes and three sons went straight from Melbourne to Mokanger after they arrived on the Marco Polo in September 1852. They weren’t there long before they went east again to the Chirnside’s Carranballac Station where Margaret was born in 1853. Charles then thought he’d try his luck at the diggings but it wasn’t long before he was back working for the Chirnsides again but at Mount William Station where a daughter Ellen was born in 1861. In 1863 they arrived back at Mokanger and son John was born there the following year. After ten years, of moving they finally decided to settle there.
James Mortimer, his wife Rosanna and four children also arrived in Melbourne in September 1852 on the Bombay, and a daughter Mary was born the following year at Mount William Station. Around 1860, the Mortimers moved on to Mokanger. James Mortimer was a ploughman and later an overseer and Charles Hadden a boundary rider at the Cavendish property. The Hadden and Mortimer children grew up together and on 17 March 1870, William Hadden by then himself working at Mokanger, married Mary Mortimer at the property. William was twenty-three and Mary just seventeen. William continued working at Mokanger into his eighties and saw the property change hands from the Chirnsides.
McEWEN, Peter – Died 9 June 1902 at Hamilton. Peter McEwen was born in Argyllshire, Scotland and arrived in Victoria in 1863. He went first to Tullich station near Casterton owned by Miles Fletcher before becoming the manager of Argyle Station. In 1867, Peter took over the running of Dunrobin Station also near Casterton, holding the position of manager until his death. In 1872, Peter married Jessie Fletcher and they had three sons and three daughters.
In 1901, the Casterton Caledonian Society was formed and Peter was the inaugural chief of the society. A kind and charitable man, the respect for him was demonstrated when people from across the district attended his funeral to pay their respects. More than seventy buggies along with horsemen followed the cortège which travelled from Dunrobin station to Casterton reaching a length of almost a kilometre as seen in the photo below. You can read an article about the funeral on the link – Funeral of Peter McEwen.
HELPMAN, Walter Stephen – Died 24 June 1914 at Warrnambool. Walter Helpman was born in Fremantle, Western Australia, a son of Captain Benjamin Helpman and Ann Pace, a sister of Mrs Jane Henty. The Helpmans moved to Victoria and settled in Warrnambool. Walter attended school in Portland before going to a grammar school in South Melbourne. In 1869, he joined the National Bank at Warrnambool before moving to the Geelong branch as an accountant. In 1875, he became manager of the Colonial Bank at Koroit and in 1876, started a branch at Port Fairy. In 1877, Walter became the manager of the Warrnambool branch of the Colonial Bank and he married Isabella Murray in the same year. The first of Isabella and Walter’s children was Francis born in Warrnambool in 1878. Then followed twins Isabella Jean and James in 1881 and Gordon born in 1884.
Walter left the Colonial Bank in 1902 and the Helpmans left Warrnambool. Walter had a job as a clerk with the Customs Department in Melbourne and he and Isabella moved to 547 Collins Street, Melbourne, the location of the Federal Hotel.
In 1907, Isabella and Walter’s son James married May Gardiner at Millicent, South Australia. A son Robert known as “Bobbie”, was born to James and May at Mt Gambier in 1909. Walter and Isabella returned to Warrnambool around 1912, but two years later Walter died. Isabella died at Warrnambool in 1924. Their grandson “Bobbie” grew up to become Sir Robert Helpman.
ILLINGWORTH, John – Died 11 June 1915 at Casterton. John was born in Lancashire, England in 1835 and went to London to take up an apprenticeship as a blacksmith and wheelwright. On completion, he travelled to Dublin, Ireland and while there, he and friend decided to travel to Australia. They arrived in 1860 and John spent time in Melbourne and Castlemaine before moving on to Ballarat where he remained for twenty years. There he married Sarah Jane Culliford in 1867. In 1882, John and his family arrived in Casterton and settled on Toorak Hill. John purchased the blacksmith and wheelwright business of Alexander McBean.
Away from work, John attended the Casterton Methodist Church and was a trustee and circuit steward as well as a Sunday School teacher and superintendent. John was also a member of the Glenelg Lodge of Freemasons. At the time of his death, John left his widow Sarah and two sons and two daughters.
HICKLING, Wyatt Ware – Died 19 June 1916 at Macarthur. Wyatt Hickling was born in Warrnambool around 1876. As a child, he was sent to Dresden, Germany for two years to attend an English school. On his return, Wyatt attended Geelong Grammar before going to St Peter’s College in Adelaide. After his schooling, Wyatt went to work for Mr Henry De Little at Caramut North Estate before managing a property in Western Australia. On his return to Victoria, Wyatt became a partner of Caramut North. He was known throughout Victoria as a good judge of merino sheep and was often called upon to judge at sheep shows. He was involved with racing, coursing and the arts, taking the lead role in a number of local productions. In 1900, Wyatt married Tessa Ada Ferguson of Adelaide and they had two sons.
On Wednesday 31 May 1916, Wyatt was travelling in a motor car near Macarthur with Mr N. Whitehead when they crashed into a large rock. Wyatt was thrown from the car and severely injured his spine at the base of his skull. When help arrived he was unconscious and taken to the nearby Ripponhurst homestead. Doctors were called from Hamilton and Warrnambool before two doctors from Melbourne travelled to Macarthur to asses Wyatt’s injuries. He showed a slight improvement but never regained consciousness and died nineteen days after the accident on 19 June.
DAVIDSON, William – Died June 1917 at Woolsthorpe. William Davidson was born in Aberdeen, Scotland in 1832. He married Eliza Ogilvie in 1854 and they travelled to Australia, arriving at Port Fairy in 1855. William went to work for Joseph Ware at Minjah before opening a store at Woolsthorpe. His store was located on what was known as the Great North Road from Warrnambool to the Ararat diggings. It was a busy road and Woolsthorpe was a popular overnight stop for travellers. They often stocked up at William’s store and he was known to take up to £100 a day. William left the store and took up dairy-farming continuing until he suffered a stroke around 1905. William was well-known in the Woolsthorpe district by his nickname of “The Chaffer” because of his tendency to tease. Eliza died around 1914 and William lived on for another three years. He left twelve surviving children, forty-three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
THOMSON, Annie – Died 14 June 1930 at Hamilton. Annie Thomson was born in 1855 in the Shelford district were her parents James Thomson and Christian Armstrong were living at the time. Around 1860, the Thomsons moved to the Edenhope district after James purchased an interest in the Ullswater and Maryvale Stations. In 1870, James Thomson purchased the Monivae estate, just south of Hamilton. In time, Annie’s father built a new homestead to accommodate his large family and she spent around seven years living there prior to her marriage.
When she did marry, Annie was thirty but it could have been earlier. In 1881, her beau James Allan Learmonth, a son of Hamilton businessman and grazier Peter Learmonth and Mary Jarvey Pearson of Prestonholme left for Mexico to manage a property bought by his father. Five years passed yet Allan and Annie’s love remained strong and in 1886, Allan returned from Mexico to marry her. The wedding was a large social occasion and sparked much interest within the Hamilton community. Celebrated on 1 September 1886, at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Hamilton, the marriage was not followed by the usual wedding breakfast. Instead, two weeks later James Thomson hosted a private ball for two hundred guests in the Hamilton Town Hall for the newlyweds in lieu of a wedding breakfast.
Soon after, Allan and Annie left for Mexico and they remained there until 1892, arriving back in Australia with four children, all born in Mexico. Allan then took up the running of Corea near Dunkeld. The following year, Peter Learmonth died and Allan took over Prestonholme. Allan died in 1928 and Annie in 1930, leaving three sons and three daughters. She was buried with Allan at the Hamilton Old Cemetery.
Annie’s parents James and Christina Thomson were to the Hamilton Presbyterian Church as James’ parents Peter and Mary Learmonth were to the Methodist Church, each devout supporters of their chosen faith. Of course, when Annie married James she moved to Methodism and she and James showed the same devotion to their faith as their parents before them. After Annie’s death, a stained glass window was installed in Hamilton’s Methodist Church (now Uniting Church) to memorialise the couple.