Passing of the Pioneers

After the chore of moving house, I’ve finally had a chance to write a Passing of the Pioneers post.  I had good intentions for a December edition and started a post but it was soon January.  Not wanting to let another year go by until I had to chance to post about some of the “December” pioneers, I decided to write a combined December/January post.  As time went on it was obvious I wasn’t going to finish by the end of January, so now it has become a combined December/January/February post. 

There are only seven pioneer obituaries in this edition, two each from December and January and three from February, however, due to the amount of extra information about some of the subjects, their entries are longer than usual. Most are long overdue in finding their way to the Pioneer Obituary Index.  Among them is one of our great female pioneers along with two men who were pioneers of Victorian horse racing one of whom still has a leading race named after him.  And there is a woman who by marriage became linked to three well known Hamilton district families, the Learmonths, Laidlaws and Thomsons and learnt Spanish along the way.

COLDHAM, John – Died 2 December 1882 at Grassdale. John Coldham arrived in Tasmania from England around 1840. Having heard of good land in Victoria, John sailed for the colony, taking up the Grassdale Run, west of Branxholme where he remained for the next forty years.  In 1850, John was appointed a Magistrate in the district and in 1853 he married Josephine Lane and they went on to have five sons.

John was active in community affairs and early horse racing in Victoria.  From a horse called Bobby he raced at Portland around 1848, he went on to own two of the runners in the first Melbourne Cup in 1861, Grey Dawn and Twilight.  Grey Dawn was the progeny of Western District sire King Alfred.  Break O’Day out of Grey Dawn won the 1874 Ballarat Cup for John.

Along with horses, John was a breeder of fine sheep and in his later life took up breeding Alderney cattle. In 1882, John’s health was failing and he took a trip to the sulphur springs of New Zealand in search of relief.  Knowing death was impending, on his return, he sold his stock.  He didn’t see out the year and was buried at the Merino Cemetery.  Further reading about John Coldham’s racing and farming successes was published in The Australian in 1881 after a visit to Grassdale and you can find the article on the following link http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225486595

MINOGUE, Jerome Joseph – Died 31 December 1928 at Edenhope.  Jerome Minogue was born in Clare, Ireland around 1840 and arrived in Portland as a baby with his parents Simon and Johanna Minogue aboard the Agricola. The Minogues lived at the property Wattle Hill at West Portland.  Jerome remained in Portland for more than thirty years working as a stockman for the Henty brothers, including time as the head stockman at their property Cashmore. He was known as an expert horseman and his tracking abilities saw him find missing children in the bush on two occasions.  Jerome married Jean Edgar of Harrow in 1871 and then bought a farm near Edenhope. Jerome was survived by Jean, two sons and three daughters.

FFRENCH, Acheson – Died 29 January 1870 at St Kilda. Acheson Ffrench was born at Monivae Castle, Galway, Ireland in 1812. As a young man, he left Ireland and travelled through Europe and the Holy Land before landing in Australia.  In 1841 at the age of twenty-nine, Acheson was appointed Police Magistrate at Hamilton, the same year he took up a large run of 17,000 acres to the south of Hamilton. He named it Monivae after his Galway home. On 8 February 1842, Ffrench married his fiancé Anna Watton and children began arriving at a steady rate with six boys and six girls born in the following years. In 1847, a homestead was built at Monivae located on what is now the eastern side of the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road.

In 1864, Acheson put Monivae up for lease for a term of three years and moved his family to Melbourne where they remained for two years before returning to Monivae in 1866. Ffrench continued to visit Melbourne and he was in town on 29 January 1870. Feeling like a swim, he visited Kenny’s Gentleman’s Bathing Ship (below) at St Kilda.

Kenny’s Baths, St. Kilda by Thomas Clark,artist. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/84320

Acheson plunged into the water and hit his head on the bottom of the pool.  With his neck broken, Acheson died at the scene.  For more about Acheson Ffrench go to my post Strong in Faith, a story of Monivae Estate.

GRAY, Charles – Died 27 January 1905 at Kensington, London.  Charles Gray was born in 1818 at Anstruther, Fife, Scotland a son of Major George Gray of the Royal Marines.  In January 1839, Charles sailed from England to Hobson’s Bay on the ship Midlothian, meeting William P. Scott and John Marr on the voyage. They parted company on arrival, with Charles making his way to Glenormiston. Hearing of a flock of sheep for sale, Charles wrote to his shipmates Scott and Marr and proposed they squat together.  They agreed and the three men took out a squatters licence further on to the north-west at Green Hill Creek near what is now Glenthompson. The site Charles first camped on Green Hill Creek in 1840 was marked with a stone obelisk. The inscription on the obelisk read,”Charles Gray Camped Here September 1840″.

CHARLES GRAY c1855. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/294252

The trio stayed in partnership until 1845 when Scott retired. In 1850, John Marr and Charles dissolved their partnership, splitting the property and stock.  John Marr named his share Burrie Burrie, later becoming Brie Brie while Charles named his share Nareeb Nareeb.  He set about building a homestead by the Green Hill Creek and improving the property for sheep farming.  In 1855 Charles was appointed a Magistrate in the Portland Bay district.

THE HOMESTEAD BUILT BY CHARLES GRAY AT NAREEB NAREEB ON THE BANKS OF THE GREEN HILLS CREEK. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/294239

At the age of thirty-nine in 1857, Charles married Elizabeth Sharp. Elizabeth was a watercolour artist from Dublin, Ireland via Sydney.  She arrived at Portland from Sydney early in 1857 and married Charles on 19 March that year.  A daughter Annie was born the following year and another daughter Emily was born in 1860.

ELIZABETH GRAY AND HER DAUGHTERS ANNIE, (right) and EMILY (seated with Elizabeth) c 1862. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/294254

In 1862, a boy was born to Charles and Elizabeth but he sadly died before he could be named.  The following year on 13 February, a daughter Elizabeth was born at Neptune Cottage at Queenscliff.  The pride Charles had in his daughters comes through in the photo below.

CHARLES GRAY AND HIS DAUGHTERS ANNIE (right) and EMILY (left) c1862. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/294247

Charles spoke fondly of his girls, evident in his memoir Western Victoria in the forties: reminiscences of a pioneer, published posthumously in the Hamilton Spectator in 1932. Charles mentioned his oldest daughters particularly Annie who he taught to ride on a Shetland pony and by “ten years of age was a good and fearless rider”.  He recalled Annie helping him reduce kangaroo numbers on Nareeb Nareeb and an adventurous trip to Glenthompson with Annie and Emily who were fully exposed to pioneering life.

Amid the isolation of life at Nareeb Nareeb, Elizabeth continued with her art.  In 1864 she sent five paintings to the Annual Exhibition of Fine Arts in Melbourne and in 1866, she exhibited watercolours at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition, including views of Queenscliff such as the work below.

QUEENSCLIFF BEACH by ELIZABETH GRAY (1963) Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/401523

In 1867 when Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh visited the colony, he spent time at neighbouring property Hopkins Hill, the guest of John Moffat. Charles and Elizabeth were invited to lunch with the prince and Elizabeth presented him with vases adorned with etched Black Swan eggs.  The Prince was most impressed with Elizabeth’s work and commissioned her to make similar ornaments for his mother. Elizabeth produced four vases including two smaller vases each with carved Black Swan eggs including one of the Wannon Falls near Hamilton, seen on the right in the illustration below. A larger vase featured Mount Sturgeon near Dunkeld carved on an emu egg.  The four vases given to Queen Victoria are now part of the Royal Collection and are located at Osborne House, the summer house of Queen Victoria on the Isle of Wight. A photograph of the vases in the illustration below is available on the link to the Royal Collection.

“VASES PRESENTED TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN.” Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 – 1875) 15 August 1868: 12. Web. 7 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60450420&gt;.

In 1873, Elizabeth exhibited in the Victorian Intercolonial Exhibition in Melbourne and the London International and by December that year, the Grays had decided to move to England. Charles sold the household furniture and harness and the family left Australia in February 1874.  Two years later Charles travelled from London to New York and then on to the Philadelphia Exhibition before embarking at San Francisco for Sydney. He then made his way south to Nareeb Nareeb. The women in his life extended their stay in England.  On his return, Charles was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In 1881, Charles’ eldest daughter Annie married Charles Rowe in Kensington, London.

Charles may not have been the easiest person to get along with according to a description of him by Billis & Kenyon in 1942.

“Nareeb Nareeb—One of the Famous Western District Fine-wool Stations” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 3 May 1941: 37. Web. 3 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article142429106&gt;.

However, a reporter from the Hamilton Spectator visited Nareeb Nareeb in 1876 upon Charles’ return from London to report on his “Model Wool-Growing Estate” describing him as most hospitable and not one to turn a passer-by away.  I turned to the journalist  The Vagabond to see if he, as a keen observer of human character, had an opinion of Charles. Unfortunately, he did not pass by Nareeb Nareeb while writing his series Picturesque Victoria in 1885 but in his account of his visit to Hamilton during that series, he mentioned he wanted to visit Charles in the future.  Little did The Vagabond know by 1886 Charles was feeling the loneliness of life at Nareeb Nareeb.  Missing his family and approaching his seventies and no son to pass the property on to, he returned to England.  In 1903, Elizabeth died in England with Charles living a further two years, dying in 1905 at the age of eighty-seven.

While I was searching for The Vagabond’s thoughts on Charles Gray, I found a reference to Charles from an article by The Vagabond written after a return visit to Hamilton in 1893.  On that occasion, he met with Hamilton’s Alexander Ingram.  The Vagabond wrote Ingram had said Hamilton’s main street Gray Street, “… was not named from Commissioner Gray…but from Mr Charles Gray, the squatter…”. However, Ingram went on to refute that with a Letter to the Editor of the Hamilton Spectator on 28 November 1893 as seen below.

“THE “VAGABOND” IN HAMILTON.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 28 November 1893: 3. Web. 10 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225780345&gt;.

PACE, Jane – Died 3 February 1906 at Hamilton. Jane Pace was born on 8 February 1816 at Stokesley, Yorkshire, England to Walter Pace, a captain with the East India Company and Elizabeth Fennie.  In 1832 Walter, on hearing of good land in Western Australia, left his family in Yorkshire and set off on an exploratory trip. Finding Western Australia to his liking, Walter built a stone house for his family and wrote to his wife Elizabeth he would return to collect her and the children. However, Elizabeth was an independent woman, a trait later seen in her daughter Jane, and without telling her husband she boarded The Quebec Trader with daughters Jane and Ann and travelled to Western Australia.  After a treacherous voyage, broken with a visit with friends in South Africa, Elizabeth and her daughters arrived in Fremantle much to Walter’s surprise.

Elizabeth also proved herself a resourceful woman having a contingency plan in case Walter had already left to collect them.  From England, she carried a letter of introduction addressed to Stephen George Henty, a young trader who had frequented the Swan River area since 1829.  With Walter still in Fremantle, the letter wasn’t required but an introduction to the twenty-two year old Henty did take place leading to his marriage to sixteen year old Jane Pace.  They were married on 14 April 1836 at Fremantle.  They soon set off for Portland Bay where the Henty brothers had a whaling station and were establishing themselves as sheep farmers.  The newlyweds arrived on a Sunday evening and under moonlight, Jane was carried ashore by a sailor, the first European woman to land on the shores of the Port Phillip District.

VIEW OF PORTLAND BAY 1835-1836 BY GEORGE JACKSON. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/288641

Jane found the Henty brothers had built a comfortable homestead and were awaiting her arrival with a fire burning, a hearty meal of bread, butter, eggs, and tea.  As Jane entered the homestead Francis Henty said, “Welcome, Mrs Henty” to which Jane replied, “My name is Jane Henty, your sister”.  Jane got along well with her brothers-in-law and in her memoirs published in 1902 and reproduced in part in 1934 by Table Talk newspaper, she looked back fondly on those times albeit tough. In August 1837, a son Richmond was born, the first of eleven children Jane would bear.

JANE HENTY ca. 1872-1880. Photographer Batchelder & Co. Image courtesy of the State Library of New South Wales. File no. FL3317680 http://archival.sl.nsw.gov.au/Details/archive/110343890I

In time, the Hentys moved to Tarrington Station, just east of Hamilton.  It was there in December 1872 Stephen died at the age of sixty-one.  In 1874, Anna Henty, one of Jane’s daughters married Hamilton stock and station agent Robert Stapylton-Bree and Jane went to live with the couple. A sad time came in 1904 when Jane’s eldest son Richmond died in London. Jane spent her last years at Bewsall, Hamilton the home of the Brees (below). She died there on 3 February 1906 only a few days short of her ninetieth birthday.

BEWSALL, HAMILTON. (1903, May 2). The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946), p. 27. Retrieved February 18, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article138684187

Jane was buried with Stephen at the Hamilton Old Cemetery. A memorial to Richmond was included on the headstone.

GRAVE OF JANE HENTY

Jane was a woman of strong religious faith and a great supporter of St Stephen’s Church in Portland and the Christ Church Hamilton.  It was there a memorial pulpit to Jane was dedicated on Sunday 4 November 1906.

INSCRIPTION ON JANE HENTY MEMORIAL PULPIT, CHRIST CHURCH HAMILTON,

A report on the pulpit’s dedication by the Hamilton Spectator read as follows,

“CHRIST CHURCH.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 6 November 1906: 1 (SUPPLEMENT TO THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR). Web. 7 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226123438&gt;.

And yes, today more than a century later one can visit Hamilton’s Christ Church, view the pulpit and remember Jane a great pioneering woman of not only the Western District but Australia.  March is Women’s History month and I will be posting more about Jane as part of the series, Wonderful Western District Women.

WIMBLE, Clara Augusta – Died 3 February 1912 at Cavendish. Clara Wimble was born at Northcote in 1860, a daughter of  Lands Department officer Nehemiah Wimble and Edith Hewett. On 30 August 1887, Clara married Stanley Learmonth at the Northcote Wesleyan Church. Stanley had returned from Mexico where he and his brother Allan had run the family property La Mariposa since 1881. Soon after their marriage, Clara left with Stanley for Mexico, her home for the next fourteen years.  Clara at least had some female company from home when she arrived because her brother-in-law Allan Learmonth had married Annie Thomson from the Hamilton district a year earlier and made their home at La Mariposa. Clara learnt Spanish enabling her to better adjust to her adopted country. Children were born to Clara and Stanley in Mexico including in 1890, 1891 and 1892. It was 1892 when Allan and Annie Learmonth returned to Australia but Stanley and Clara remained in Mexico for another ten years.

On their eventual return in 1902, they took up residence at Horsham where Clara was involved with the Horsham Golf Club and the Horsham Ladies Benevolent Society.  They left Horsham in 1906 moving to Eulameet, Cavendish. Clara did suffer from illness through that time but still managed to get out and about.  Around 26 January 1912,  Clara, Stanley, a son, and daughter travelled in Stanley’s car for an afternoon visiting the Carters at Glenisla.  When Clara stepped from the car she suffered a stroke and died days later on 3 February.  During her last days, Clara was attended by Dr David Laidlaw of Hamilton, married to Stanley’s sister Mary Simpson Laidlaw.  Clara was buried at the Hamilton Old Cemetery (below). A Hamilton Spectator article the day after her burial recalled stories unfolding from the funeral including that of Stanley Learmonth’s return visit to Mexico in 1908. At La Mariposa, he found Clara’s Spanish name of Dona Clarita was known by all and many people sent messages to her via Stanley.

GRAVE OF CLARA LEARMONTH

MANIFOLD, Edward – Died 14 February 1931 at East Melbourne.

“The Late Mr. Edward Manifold.” Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954) 17 February 1931: 5. Web. 10 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article27389306&gt;.

And so begun the obituary of Edward Manifold, the fifth son of John Manifold and Marion Thomson of Purrumbete Station, the place of Edward’s birth in 1868.  John Manifold with his brothers first took up Purrumbete in 1838 and bred Shorthorn cattle.  When Edward was nine in 1877, his father John died.  Young Edward completed his early schooling at Geelong Grammar and later Melbourne Grammar. He then went on to study at Cambridge University, England.  In 1894, Edward’s mother Marion died followed by the sudden death of his brother Thomas in 1895. From Thomas’ estate, Edward received and took up the first option to buy Thomas’ property Wiridgel and each of Thomas’ brothers inherited a share in the homestead where Edward went on to live.  He already owned the Dandite Estate inherited from his father.

“NEWLY-ELECTED MEMBER OF THE V.R.C. COMMITTEE: MR. EDWARD MANIFOLD.” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 18 August 1906: 30. Web. 2 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article139174270&gt;.

Edward was a good all-around sportsman excelling at cricket, football, athletics and was a member of the Trinity College rowing team while at Cambridge. However, his first love was polo and he was a member of the Camperdown Polo Club and represented Victoria, captaining the team on a tour of New Zealand in 1901.  He is seen on the far right below, along with his brothers John Chester Manifold and William Thomas Manifold, and Hexham Polo Club member, Robert Hood all members of the 1899 Victorian team.

“INTERCOLONIAL POLO MATCH.” Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900) 18 May 1899: 21. Web. 10 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article180224372&gt;.

Another equine interest for Edward was racing.  He was involved with the Camperdown, Terang and Warrnambool Turf Clubs and he sat on the committee of the Victorian Racing Club.  With his brother John Chester Manifold, Edward won the 1893 Grand National Steeplechase with the horse Dugan and again in 1896 with Mysore (below).

“SATURDAY’S RACING IN MELBOURNE.” The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1871 – 1912) 22 July 1899: 212. Web. 10 Feb 2018 .

As the years went on, Edward’s racing successes continued including the 1904 Australian Steeplechase with Airly. Such was his involvement in Victorian horse racing, since 1932, the Group 2 Edward Manifold Stakes is run over 1600 metres for three year old fillies at Flemington Racecourse during the Spring Carnival.  His brother Chester also had a race named after him, the listed Chester Manifold Stakes over 1400 metres run in January at Flemington.

In May 1900, it was announced Edward was engaged to Beatrice Mary Synnat Anderson, a daughter of Andrew George Anderson and Elizabeth Mary Synatt Manifold, daughter of Edward’s uncle Thomas Manifold.  Edward and Beatrice were married two months later on16 July 1900 at Christ Church, South Yarra.

“STELLA’S LADIES LETTER” Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939) 19 July 1900: 15. Web. 10 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145935546&gt;.

Edward and Beatrice went on to have three sons, Peter, Andrew and Robert.

Edward was a councillor with the Hampden Shire Council from 1909 and was president on three occasions.  He was also chairman of directors of the Camperdown Cheese and Butter Factory.  Edward Manifold and his brothers were great philanthropists.  Edward supported St Pauls Church of England at Camperdown and the Anglican Diocese of Ballarat.  He also funded various scholarships at Geelong Grammar.  As a collective, the brothers funded the Camperdown Hospital and the equipment within. Edward was also a large landholder having an interest in a number of properties in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.  One of his properties was Boortkoi at Hexham (below), which was taken over by his son Andrew.

BOORTKOI, HEXHAM. J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/231806

Edward died at a private hospital in East Melbourne in 1931 and cremated at the Melbourne Crematorium.  He was sixty-three and the last surviving son of John and Marion Manifold.

“DEATH OF MR. E. MANIFOLD” The Australasian (Melbourne, Vic. : 1864 – 1946) 21 February 1931: 9. Web. 10 Feb 2018 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article141418767&gt;.

 

Strong in Faith…A Story of Monivae Estate

For over 175 years, the name of “Monivae” has been familiar to the people of Hamilton and district. What it represents has changed with the generations from a parish and schools to an old bluestone homestead Hamiltonians pass on their annual migration south to Port Fairy. For the returned WW1 soldier and poet Thomas SkeyhillMonivae was the place the fairies played as he walked the paddocks, “with a copy of Keats…and dog at my heels.” 

Local history wasn’t something taught at school but I  did learn the origins of the name “Monivae”. Not during a history class, rather religious education. I attended Hamilton’s Monivae College, a Catholic secondary school. The college opened in the 1950s, on the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road, just south of Hamilton on a property with a two-storey bluestone homestead.  After the school relocated to Ballarat Road, Hamilton, the original property became known as “Old Monivae”.  Those of similar age to myself, who didn’t sit through a Form 1 RE class at Monivae, could be excused for thinking the name started with the school.  Instead, it goes back to an Irish Protestant by the name of Acheson Ffrench.

Appointed as Police Magistrate in 1841 at Hamilton, then known as The Grange, Acheson Ffrench aged twenty-nine was from Monivea Castle, County Galway, Ireland, the Ffrench ancestral home dating back to the 1600s when the Ffrenchs took over from the O’Kellys.  Born at the castle in 1812, the son of Robert Ffrench and Nicola O’Brien was educated in Dublin, destined to join the clergy, but Acheson had questions. He left Ireland and went on a pilgrimage of sorts through Europe and the Holy Land before landing in Australia.  Don Garden in Hamilton, A Western District History, cites C. J. Griffith who met Ffrench in Melbourne soon after his arrival.  Griffith recalled Ffrench’s tattoos, Jerusalem Arms inked by a monk in the ancient city along with various Arabic characters.

“Government Gazette.” Australasian Chronicle (Sydney, NSW : 1839 – 1843) 8 July 1841: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article31732227&gt;.

It was also 1841 when Ffrench took up land, a large run of 17,000 acres to the south of The Grange. He named it Monivae after his Galway home. It seems he never took on the original spelling of Monivea but Ffrench seemed fairly flexible in that respect.  He dropped a letter from his surname, signing letters to the newspapers, of which he wrote many, as A.French. The Ffrench surname had already evolved back in Ireland from ffrench.

“Advertising” The Melbourne Daily News (Vic. : 1848 – 1851) 1 February 1849: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article226472923&gt;.

On 8 February 1842, Ffrench married his fiancé Anna Watton, a daughter of Dr John Watton who in that year became Medical Officer at the Mt Rouse Aboriginal Protectorate.  Acheson and Anna lived at the Police Magistrate’s residence on a site selected by Acheson on the corner of Thompson and Martin streets. The Hamilton Police Station and Courthouse still stand there today.

“Family Notices” Geelong Advertiser (Vic. : 1840 – 1845) 14 February 1842: 3. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article92679898&gt;.

By the end of 1843, the role of Police Magistrate was abolished and Ffrench was without a job.  However, by February 1844, the government announced a new commission intended to keep the peace and Ffrench was named as a commissioner.  He was able to stay on in at his residence but with reduced employment, Ffrench turned to improving Monivae and running sheep. The Ffrench offspring were arriving at a steady rate and in 1847, a homestead was built at Monivae on what is now the eastern side of the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road.  Anna would bear twelve children in all, six boys and six girls, with one dying as a baby.

Acheson Ffrench wasn’t the best of farmers and money problems arose.  In 1864, he put Monivae up for lease for a term of three years and moved the family to Melbourne.

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 29 January 1864: 8. Web. 18 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5743286&gt;.

The family spent two years in Melbourne, returning to Monivae in 1866. Ffrench’s trips to Melbourne continued and he was there on 29 January 1870.  He fancied a dip at Kenny’s Gentleman’s Bathing Ship (below) at St Kilda. With his arms reportedly by his side, Ffrench described as, “somewhat heavy with a stout build”, dived into the water from one of the diving boards. Normally at a depth of six feet, the tide was out leaving the water depth at just over four feet. Ffrench hit his head on the bottom and unconscious when dragged out.  He could not be revived, dying within minutes.  An inquest found Acheson had broken his neck. Arising from the inquest was a conversation, of which Ffrench was a part in the days before his death.  At lunch with friends, the topic of discussion turned to death from diving accidents.

KENNY’S BATHING SHIP, ST. KILDA. Artist – Thomas Clark. Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/84320

When news of Acheson Ffrench’s death reached Hamilton, shops closed as a mark of respect.  He was remembered in the Hamilton Spectator, “…as generally very highly respected throughout the district for his strict integrity and manliness of character, whilst there was a certain rugged independence about him which led him to adhere strictly to his own convictions, without, however, attempting to force his views upon others”.  Monivae was placed on the market and Anna Ffrench and the children moved to Melbourne.

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 9 August 1870: 3. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article5828208&gt;.

Ownership of Monivae transferred from an Irishman the Spectator described as having “peculiar” religious views, to a staunch Presbyterian from the Scottish Highlands.  James Thomson and his wife Christian Armstrong arrived in Victoria in 1852 aboard the Europa.  They spent around five years at the Clyde Company’s Golf Hill, near Shelford. Their first child John was born in 1853 at neighbouring Warrambeen, home of Christian’s brother Alexander Armstrong.  James Thomson then purchased an interest the Ullswater and Maryvale Stations near Edenhope and settled at the later property.

By the time the Thomsons arrived at Monivae in 1870, they had seven children aged two to seventeen and they moved into Ffrench’s homestead. Over the next six years, the Thomson family continued to grow.  In 1871, twins James and George were born followed by Wilhelmina Jessie in 1873. Sadly, Wilhelmina died on 5 April 1875.  The last child born to the family was William Armstrong Thomson in September 1876.  It was around the time of William’s birth, James Thomson decided they needed a bigger home or more correctly, a “mansion”. He wasn’t the only one and the “bloated aristocrats” were duly roasted by the Ballarat Star calling for a mansion tax.

“NEW SOURCE OF TAXATION.” The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 – 1924) 18 December 1876: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article199833143&gt;.

Some may believe, especially if they did Form 1 RE with me in the 1980s, the existing Monivae homestead was built by Acheson Ffrench.  James Thomson was never mentioned in our classes.  Likewise, Thomson was not mentioned in historian Margaret Kiddle’s book Men of Yesterday and she credited Ffrench for building Monivae “probably in the late sixties” (p.316). However, James Thomson was responsible for the Monivae Homestead we know today.

The site for the new homestead was about 800 metres from the former homestead and on the other side of the Hamilton/Port Fairy Road.  William Smith, the Borough Surveyor drew up plans, tenders opened and using bluestone sourced from the quarry on the property, construction began.  Thomson’s total expenditure was £5400 something he likely regretted because the government did introduce a “class” tax and if the timing was slightly different, the homestead may never have been built. The land tax, introduced in the colony in 1877, intended to break up large holdings such as Monivae and it was thought Thomson would never have gone ahead had it come earlier.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1966. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

Hamilton Spectator correspondent toured the new sixteen roomed homestead in May 1878. Critical of the external appearance he suggested “one of those elegant lookout towers” to improve the looks. He remarked it might be an addition “when times – politically speaking – improve”.  A tower was never added and reforms to the land tax didn’t come until 1884. The lacework and coloured tiles of the verandah did meet approval. As the correspondent entered the front door, a hallway measuring twenty-four feet by ten feet wide was before him with, “white walls, shining like so much marble would perhaps give it too cold a look; but for the coloured light thrown into it, from the staircase and front door windows, and its mosaic pavement formed of Minton’s tiles.” The drawing room was around twenty-six feet by sixteen feet but for special occasions, folding doors into the breakfast room could open.  The floor space then increased to forty-six feet, allowing for dancing.

The homestead boasted an eighteen-foot tiled staircase with a cedar railing leading to the upper storey with a balcony verandah around ten feet wide and 130 feet long.  Paved in coloured tiles, it was perfect for the Thomson children to roller skate. That was until 1887 when sixteen-year-old James Thomas Thomson skated straight over the railing onto the gravel about nine metres below. He fractured his skull and although it was touch and go for a few days, he made a full recovery.  His twin George, known as “Joe” was not so lucky.  Having suffered congenital heart problems, he died suddenly two years late on 4 June 1889, at Monivae aged eighteen.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1966. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230077

The Thomson children were not the marrying kind. Of the five Thomson girls, three married, as did three of the surviving four boys. None married before the age of twenty-seven and John was fifty-six. The first Thomson wedding was that of thirty-year-old Annie Thomson to James Allan Learmonth, son of Hamilton businessman and grazier Peter Learmonth and Mary Jarvey Pearson of Prestonholme. Learmonth was also a devout Methodist, a pillar of the Hamilton Wesleyan Church in McIntyre Street.

It was the grandest of the three weddings James Thompson would pay for.  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 threw a private ball for two hundred guests in the Hamilton Town Hall for the newlyweds in lieu of a wedding breakfast.  Such a grand affair may have been due to Annie’s imminent departure for Mexico with her new husband who’d been managing the family property there.  It could also have been the thinking of a canny Scot.  Why pay for both a wedding breakfast and a send-off when one event will suffice.

HAMILTON TOWN HALL 1910. Image courtesy of the Museum Victoria Collections http://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/765800

On 3 October 1888, it was Margaret “Maggie” Thomson’s turn to marry. She too had reached the age of thirty and opted for a small quiet gathering at Monivae. The groom was Thomas Haliburton Laidlaw, son of Thomas Laidlaw and Grace McLeod and those in attendance were mostly family. Elizabeth “Lizzie” Thomson married on 27 July 1893 in the drawing room at Monivae, again a quiet celebration.  Her groom was bank manager Forrester Goldsmith Armstrong, a son of Oliver Armstrong of Kyneton. By this time Lizzie’s older sister Annie and her family were home from Mexico to witness the occasion.

Fire has threatened the Monviae homestead many times since its construction including 1891, 1944 and more recently Ash Wednesday of 1983. The fires of February 1901 were particularly fierce and practically wiped out Byaduk North a little further south. At Monivae, fire swept through the property from one end to the other killing around 2000 sheep.

“ALONG MACARTHUR ROAD.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 9 February 1901

In 1906, the Victorian Government received an offer to buy 17,000 acres of the Monivae Estate from James Thomson for Closer Settlement.  He would keep 3,000 acres and the homestead. Negotiations with the government broke down, so James subdivided the land himself. An initial sale on 24 November 1906 saw 322 acres auctioned.  Of the lots sold they averaged around £16 per acre. A second sale was held on 20 December 1906 and 1022 acres were sold at an average of £9 13/ per acre. James also sold off Crawford Estate and subdivided 500 acres of Lake Condah Estate. With a downsized Monivae, youngest son William left the property and moved to Portland. Oldest son John stayed on at Monivae as did unmarried daughters Mary and Christina.

The land sales came in the wake of a great loss for the Thomson family.  On 8.20am on 24 October 1906 at Monivae, the matriarch of the family, Christian Thomson drew her last breath at the age of seventy-five.  A deeply religious and charitable woman, she was one of the fundraising champions of the town and attended St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church like clockwork “morning and night”. Everyone knew her pew. A full member of the church for thirty-six years, her name was added to the church roll on 4 October 1870.  Christian was also a member of the Ladies Benevolent Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society.  She managed to attend church until just a couple of weeks before her death.  Christian was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.

GRAVE OF CHRISTIAN THOMSON, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

It was fourteen years between the weddings of Thomson children and it was James Thomas Thomson, the roller skater, who was next to take the plunge.  He was living at Inverary, Branxholme by the time he married Henrietta Moynan on 26 November 1907 at the Anglican Christ Church Hamilton, the church sharing Church Hill with St. Andrew’s. The couple made their home at Inverary.  By that time, some may have thought James’ older brother John who had hit his mid-fifties, would remain a bachelor but on 31 March 1909 at Lilydale, he married Christiana Robertson.  Younger brother Alexander was close behind, marrying Ethel Manning on 6 May 1909.  He was forty-six.

Possibly the last public duty undertaken by James Thomson of Monivae was the laying of a foundation stone for a new St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.  A devout parishioner, James donated bluestone from the Monivae quarry for the new church.  The ceremony took place on 18 December 1907 with James just four months from his eighty-seventh birthday.

FOUNDATION STONE, ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, HAMILTON

 

ST ANDREW’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, HAMILTON

After completion of the new Presbyterian church, James donated a memorial window to remember his wife, Christian.  Also, portraits of James and Christian and their children John and Margaret Thomson were unveiled at the church in 1918 along with those of seven other prominent Hamilton Presbyterians.

“BEAUTIFUL MEMORIAL WINDOW.” Hamilton Spectator (Vic. : 1870 – 1918) 26 May 1909: 4. Web. 14 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225037595&gt;.

James Thomson died at Monivae on 25 April 1910 after an illness of two weeks.  His obituary described him as, “…a man of sterling qualities and simple tastes. Never courting publicity, he was never so happy as when surrounded by children or occupying himself in his garden”.  James left Monivae for the last time at 2.30pm on Wednesday 27 April 1910 for the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery.

GRAVE OF JAMES THOMSON, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

James Thomson’s probate file reveals his liabilities were £814. His debts included rates, wages to a number of Monivae staff and accounts with businesses in Hamilton.  The total of the estate was £36,209. Of that, over £2600 was stock including several thousand sheep. Another £300 was the furniture filling the rooms of the homestead.  The Monivae property including the homestead was valued at £25000. By that time, the homestead Ffrench built was accommodation for Monivae workers.  James bequeathed two-thirds of his estate to his four living sons, divided equally.  To his five daughters, James bequeathed one-third of his estate in equal shares. Eldest son John Thomson was given the first option to buy the property at a value of £8 per acre.  He could also buy the farm implements and furniture in the homestead for £400. The last of the Lake Condah Estate was sold as too a large amount of stock.  Extra funds were no doubt wanted to pay the duty on the estate totalling more than £2500, seven percent of the total.

John Thomson did take up the option to buy Monivae.  He was around fifty-seven and newly married to Christina “Keenie” Robertson, a daughter of Scot James Robertson and Jane Ritchie of Keilor.  Christina herself was forty-three and children were not in the equation. Like his parents, John was a stalwart of the Presbyterian Church and on the board of management of St Andrew’s for thirty years.  As well as running Monivae, John was a politician and by 1910, had held the seat of Dundas in Victoria’s Legislative Assembly for eighteen years across two terms and was a Honourary Minster in the Cabinet.

“THE OPENING OF THE THIRD FEDERAL PARLIAMENT.” Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954) 2 March 1907: 9. Web. 13 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221256443&gt;.

In May 1914, John Thomson announced after twenty-two years in the seat of Dundas, he would not stand for re-election at the forthcoming State Election. The reasons given were the need to spend more time at home with his wife and to tend to other family matters. He said the last five years were extremely busy ones and he was looking forward to leading a quieter life.

John’s unmarried sisters Christina and Mary had stayed on at Monivae after their father’s death.  In 1914 and feeling under the weather, Christina then aged forty-six attended the doctor on Friday 6 November but managed to take up her usual place at St Andrew’s the following Sunday.  She died suddenly about midday at Monivae on Monday 9 November with Mary at her side. Well-liked in the community, Christina like her mother was devout and charitable.

It was around the time of Christina’s death, the Monivae State School opened on the Portland Road.  With Closer Settlement in the district and James’ subdivision of Monivae, the area was becoming increasingly populated. The school eventually closed and in 1946, the school building was moved to the North Hamilton State School.

John Thomson spent the years after his political retirement maintaining Monivae and was involved with various committees and activities in the Hamilton district.  He made a trip to Melbourne on 3 August 1917 and attended a school football match with Archibald Simpson of Clifton, Hamilton.  The funeral for John Thomson was large with condolences and floral tributes sent from dignitaries across Victoria.  His coffin bearers were Monivae employees and members of the Hamilton Angling Club. John was buried in the Thomson family plot at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery as the Hamilton Brass Band played “Nearer My God to Thee”.   

GRAVE OF JOHN THOMSON AND HIS WIFE CHRISTINA ROBERTSON

John left his estate valued at over £46,000 to his wife Christina and brother-in-law Thomas Laidlaw. Upon Christina’s death, the estate would be divided between John’s brothers and sisters.  One of John’s more interesting investments was 500 shares in the Melbourne Ice Skating Company. The estate was held in trust and Christina moved to Sandringham in 1921. She died at Toorak in December 1949 at the age of seventy-nine.

Alexander, the second eldest son of James and Christian Thomson took over the running of Monivae.  Alexander and his wife Ethel Manning and their two children Kathleen Mary and  James Yelverton Monivae Thomson moved into the homestead.  Kathleen (below) married Hugh Lloyd Cameron of Geelong at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Hamilton on 18 February 1937.

KATHLEEN MARY THOMSON 1937 ‘Family Notices’, Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic. : 1885 – 1939), 11 March, p. 50. , http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article149614310

The 1930s saw the death of five of the Thomson siblings.  Annie died on 14 June 1930 at Prestonholme aged sixty-four leaving six children, Edgar, Russell, Keith, Christina (Mrs James Young), Maggie (Mrs Alex Armstrong), and Mona Learmonth. Having married the son of Hamilton’s leading Methodist, Annie changed her allegiances and was active in within her new church.  A memorial window (below) was installed in the Hamilton Wesleyan Methodist Church remembering Annie and her husband James Learmonth.

LEARMONTH MEMORIAL WINDOW, HAMILTON UNITING CHURCH

Annie was buried at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery

Margaret died on 30 December 1932 at her home Kilora (below) in Kennedy Street, Hamilton. She left six children, Hal, John, Alexander, Thomas, Gretta (Mrs Lance Lewis) and Bea (Mrs John McKellar) Laidlaw.  On 23 March 1933, Elizabeth died at Corra, Willaura, the home of her son-in-law Donald Moffatt leaving two children Vera and Pat.  James Thompson Jr. died in 1934.  He and Henrietta did not have children.  Youngest son William, who never married, died on 2 May 1943 aged sixty-six at Portland.  His body was taken to Monivae before leaving for the Hamilton Cemetery.  After the death of her sister Christina, unmarried Mary Thomson spent time in Malvern living with her sister Elizabeth. After Elizabeth died, Mary moved into Kilora (below), sharing the home with her widower brother-in-law Thomas Laidlaw, husband of Margaret Thomson, until her death on 13 May 1939. Thomas Laidlaw died in 1941.

KILORA, HAMILTON

Alexander Thomson’s death in June 1946 aged eighty-three, brought to a close the lives of the children of James and Christian Thomson. Sixteen of their grandchildren and their children remained. Like his siblings, Alexander was buried in the Thomson plot at the Hamilton (Old) Cemetery (below).  

THOMSON FAMILY PLOT, PRESBYTERIAN SECTION, HAMILTON (OLD) CEMETERY

After seventy-seven years, with the estate of John Thomson requiring closure, Monivae in the Parish of Monivae in the County of Normanby went up for sale.  

“Advertising” The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) 28 December 1946: 18. Web. 16 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22384820&gt;.

The Catholic order of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) was looking for a new site for a boys’ boarding college after establishing a school in Toowoomba, Queensland sixteen years earlier.  The Monivae homestead was purchased in 1947 with grand plans of developing the property into a school.

“M.S C. BOYS’ COLLEGE FOR HAMILTON” Advocate (Melbourne, Vic. : 1868 – 1954) 13 August 1947: 7. Web. 16 Oct 2017 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article172490068&gt;.

It soon became clear, the site was not suitable and the MSC went in search of a new site. Bob Strachan owned land on Ballarat Road, Hamilton and the MSC were able to negotiate a trade with him.  The MSC obtained the land in Ballarat Road for the new school and retained 100 acres at Monivae including the homestead.  Bob Strachan’s side of the bargain was the balance of the Monivae property.  A day school in temporary buildings on the Monivae property started in February 1954 while the new school was under construction.  On 17 October 1954, the foundation stone for the Ballarat Road school was blessed. The contract for the building which started in mid-1953 was the largest seen in Hamilton, estimated at £250,000. Classes started at the new school in 1956 despite it being far from complete.  Monivae College not only adopted the name of the Ffrench named property, the school’s badge includes a reminder of Ffrench’s heritage, two Dolphins  also part of the Ffrench family crest.

MONIVAE COLLEGE, BALLARAT ROAD, HAMILTON c1956.
Image courtesy of the State Library of Victoria http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/64414

From 1841, religion was at the forefront at Monivae.  From Acheson Ffrench questioning and challenging his faith to the Thomson’s unwavering devotion, to the arrival of the priests of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. The Monivae College motto Fortes in Fide meaning Strong in Faith could easily have been the Thomson’s motto too.  

The Monivae homestead became rundown and was later taken over by Glenelg Region Water, now known as Wannon Water.

MONIVAE HOMESTEAD 1981. Image courtesy of the J.T. Collins Collection, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria. http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/230082

The homestead and what remains of the surrounding Monivae property has since returned to private ownership and has undergone extensive restoration.  Monivae will be open on Sunday 22 October from 10am to 4pm.  All proceeds go to another of Hamilton’s historic jewels the Hamilton Botanic Gardens and its ongoing redevelopment. Appropriate as a feature of the gardens is the beautiful John Thomson Memorial Fountain. Such was the high regard for John Thomson of Monivae around the Hamilton district, the fountain was built in his memory and unveiled in April 1919 by the then Premier of Victoria.  In its position, the fountain is visible from the front gates of Kilora in Kennedy Street, acting as a constant reminder of their dear brother John for sisters Margaret and Mary Thomson during their time at the home.     

©2017 Merron Riddiford

After Many Days

To really get a feel for a time in history, there is nothing better than a diary, letter, memoir or personal account.  Some of my favourite Western District history books are those from pioneer times, such as “The Diaries of Sarah Midgley and Richard Skilbeck” and James Bonwick’s educational tour of Western Victoria in 1857.  There is another on my list that I haven’t shared with you before, “After Many Day’s: being the reminisces of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh.  Even better, the book is available online. (See link at end of post)

Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, born in Ireland in 1837, published his memoir in 1918, when he was 81, written, he claims, after much prodding from his wife, Flora and friends particularly a friend from the later part of his life, writer Walter G. Henderson of Albury.   Much thanks must go to them, because their persuading resulted in a  414 page rollicking yarn, packed with places, names and stories from the first half of Cuthbert’s life.  And there are illustrations.

EARLY MEMORIES. (1925, June 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 10. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16211009

EARLY MEMORIES. (1925, June 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 10. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16211009

This is not just a story of the Western District, but of life in Ireland and Germany during Cuthbert’s childhood.  There is also a wonderful description of his passage on a second-class ticket to Melbourne aboard the “Sussex” in 1853.  Cuthbert spent some time in Melbourne before he went to  the Henty’s Muntham Station (p.90) in the Western District, and his account brings 1850s Melbourne  to life.

He outlines his friendship with Thomas Browne/Rolf Boldrewood author of “Robbery Under Arms “(p 40).  He includes the obituary of his father, Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh, who spent time as a Police Magistrate at Hamilton (p.52).  During his time there, Cuthbert senior, resided at  Correagh at Strathkeller, just north of Hamilton.  (Today, Correagh is in excellent condition and was featured in an issue of Home Life magazine, available online)

There are stories of horse breaking, bushrangers, colonial racing and more.

Some of the Western District identities he met included members of the Henty family, Samuel Pratt Cooke, Acheson Ffrench and the Learmonths.  But there were also stockmen, horse breakers and crack riders.

He associated with Adam Lindsay Gordon (p.165), a person he admired for his riding skill and poetry, and there are several extracts of ALG’s verse.

Cuthbert devoted several pages to George Waines (p177) and the trial, that saw Waines convicted and sentenced to hang for the murders of Casterton couple Robert and Mary Hunt.

After Muntham, Cuthbert travelled to Queensland via Sydney.  On the way he dropped in at the Chirnside’s Mt William Station at the foot of the Grampians.  It is was there he saw the “western mare” Alice Hawthorne, in the days when she was beginning her Cinderella story, transforming from station hack to champion racehorse.

After lengthy reminisces of his time in Queensland, past Rockhampton, Cuthbert then focused on his life in N.S.W where he spent two years as an Anglican minister.  He died in Wellington, N.S.W. in 1925, aged 88, remembered as a pastoral leader.

What the critics said:

At the time of the book’s release, the Sydney Stock and Station Journal described the book as “pure Australian”

GOSSIP. (1918, April 12). The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (NSW : 1896 - 1924), p. 3. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124218838

GOSSIP. (1918, April 12). The Sydney Stock and Station Journal (NSW : 1896 – 1924), p. 3. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article124218838

When Cuthbert died in 1925,  Walter Henderson wrote of his friend and the book he persuaded Cuthbert to write.

CUTHBERT FETHERSTONHAUGH. (1925, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16210414

CUTHBERT FETHERSTONHAUGH. (1925, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 12. Retrieved October 13, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16210414

Read “After Many Days: being the reminiscences of Cuthbert Fetherstonhaugh” online