The Portland Guardian of November 24, 1941 heralded the 100th birthday of Heywood, a small town about 25 kms north of Portland. The article remembered The Bell family and their contribution to Heywood’s settlement. I recently introduced to you my family link to the Bells in a Trove Tuesday post – A Matter of Relativity about Amelia Harman. Amelia married Christopher Bell, a grandson of John and Elizabeth Bell.
John Bell and his wife Elizabeth Morrow, left Ireland in 1841 with eight children in tow, some were adults, and sailed to Australia aboard the “Catherine Jamison“. Five months after their departure, the Bells had settled at Mount Eckersley, a few kilometres north of Heywood.
Great contributors to Western Victorian racing, the family were good friends with poet Adam Lindsay Gordon. William Bell was with Gordon when he made his mighty leap at Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier.
The Department of Primary Industries cites the height of Mt Eckersley as 450 feet (137 metres) but that didn’t stop John Bell, at the age of 101, from climbing the volcano, only months before his death.
As a family known for longevity, twin sons Henry and James lived to 92 and 97 respectively. At one time they were Australia’s oldest living twins.
All of this is well and good but is it all true? John’s year of death is recorded as 1885, with his birth about 1787. That would have made him around 97/98, short of the 101 reported. Still, if he did climb Mt.Eckersley, to do it aged 97/98 was still a mean feat, but John may not have been a centenarian. The family notice in the Hamilton Spectator at the time of his death gives his age as 98.
There could also be a discrepancy with the year the Bells settled at Mt Eckersley. The Bells did arrive on the Catherine Jamieson on October 22, 1841 to Port Phillip. The newspaper article says they were in Heywood by November 1841. The Glenelg and Wannon Settlers site states John Bell settled at Mt Eckersly in 1843.
A further reminder to not always believe what you read in the papers.