Friday, 1 September 2017

Ancestral Placenames Geneameme

Just managing to get this National Family History Month post in before August is finished.  This is an activity suggested by Alona Tester at:

Sounds like a fun activity to sort out which places are important to our family history!

Atherstone, Warwickshire, England – Elizabeth Arnold, my 4x g-grandmother was born here in 1788. She married Thomas Jennings in 1806. (maternal side)

Arctic Circle – William Frederick Pilkington, my 1st cousin x3 removed was lost and died here in about 1850. (paternal side)
For more see my blogpost Lost in Arctic Expedition.

Ardreigh, co. Kildare, Ireland – Alfred Haughton, my 2x g-grandfather, owned the mill on the River Barrow. (paternal side)

Ardreigh Mill

Brighton, Victoria, Australia – John Grant, my 3x g-grandfather, settled in Brighton in the 1840’s. The Grant family became significant property owners in the area. (maternal side)

Clare, Ireland – home of my Pilkington family since at least the early 1700’s. Seven generations of Thomas Pilkington’s. (paternal side)

Cumberland, England – Abraham Postlethwaite (1831-1910), my 2x g-grandfather, was born and grew up in the village of Camerton before arriving in Australia in 1852. (maternal side)

Cork, Ireland – birthplace of Henrietta Osburne, my 2x g-grandmother.  The Osburne family were a long line of medical men in Cork throughout the 18th, 19th & 20th centuries. (paternal side)

Dublin, Ireland – various family members have lived in Dublin over the last few centuries.  Mt. Jerome cemetery is the resting place for several ancestors including my great-grandmother Mary Haughton Pilkington, and 2x great-grandmother Anna Keane Pilkington. (paternal side)

Pilkington grave at Mt. Jerome Cemetery, Dublin

Edinburgh, Scotland – Matthew and Janet Grant (nee Yates), my 4x g-grandparents, were from Edinburgh.  Matthew was a plasterer. After his death in 1827, Janet and her three children emigrated to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania.  (maternal side)

Forres, Moray, Scotland – William McKerras, my 5x great-grandfather was born here in about 1753. (maternal side).

Greymouth, New Zealand – Charles David Gardner, my great-grandfather, was born in Greymouth in 1872.  His mother Mary Emily Way had arrived there from Melbourne earlier that year. (maternal side). I have written about this at: Mary Emily Way

Hobart, Tasmania, Australia – Hobart was the beginning of a new life in Australia for several branches of my family.  Grant (1827), Humphries (possibly 1820), Arpin (1832), Way (1852).  None of them stayed in Tasmania, moving across Bass Strait to Melbourne, or across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand. (maternal side)

Inverness, Scotland – My 4th great-grandfather John McKerras (maternal side) was born in Inverness in about 1789. (maternal side).

India – My grandfather, Charles Osburne Pilkington (1866-1947), spent seven years in India from 1890 until 1897, serving with the 16th Lancers.  I’d love to know what he actually did during that time, as there was no military conflict in that period.  (paternal side).

Johannesburg, South Africa – My grandfather again.  As a reservist in the 16th Lancers, he was called up to serve with the 12th Lancers for 3 years in the Boer War 1898-1902.  Part of this time was spent serving in Johannesburg.

Kincardine, Perthshire, Scotland – The home of my Dewar ancestors.  Great grand-father James Dewar was born in Kincardine in 1829. (paternal side).

Limerick, Ireland – 3x great-grandmother Margaret Bridget Moloney was born in Limerick in 1827.  She left Ireland in the famine years for London, where she met and married Henry Way before migrating to Australia. (maternal side).

London, England – Birthplace of Louisa Jane Arpin, my 3x great grand-mother (maternal), as well as the mysterious Margaret Hill, my paternal great-grandmother about whom I have very little information.

Morankie, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland- Home of the McKenzie’s, where 4x great-grandmother Benjamina McKenzie was born in 1801, after the death of her father. A fact which prompted the priest at her baptism to note that she “was begat in the honourable bed”.

New Ross, Wexford, Ireland – the Elly family were Quakers and lived at New Ross, where they were merchants. Sarah Elly, my 3x great-grandmother was born here in 1761. (paternal side).

Oxfordshire, England – Henry Way, my 3x great-grandfather was from the village of Woodstock in Oxfordshire. (maternal side).

Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia – emigration destination for various family members.  Most notably my 3x great-grandparents William & Louisa Humphries, who were among the first settlers to Port Phillip.  They came across from Launceston on John Pascoe Faulkner’s ship ‘Enterprize’ in 1837. (maternal side). I've written Louisa's story in an earlier blogpost.

Queen’s County, Ireland – my 7x great-grandfather, John Pim, who was born in Leicestershire, England in 1641, moved to Ireland and settled in Queen’s county (county Laois). The Pim’s were Quaker merchants. (paternal side)

Raphoe, Donegal, Ireland – William Duffy, my 2x great-grandfather, and his wife Jane came from Raphoe before settling in Melbourne. (maternal side).

Somerset, England – 3x great-grandparents Thomas Tucker & Elizabeth Dunstone came from South Petherton in Somerset as assisted immigrants in 1848. (maternal side).

Shropshire, England – birthplace of William Humphries in 1796, 3x great-grandfather.  He may or may not have been a convict. (maternal side).

Texas, U.S.A – my grandfather Charles Osburne Pilkington originally went to Texas in 1885.  He spent about 4 years there before returning to Ireland and enlisting in the British Army.

United Kingdom – homeland of many of my ancestors, who at some point made the decision to emigrate to Australia.

Victoria, Australia – they came from all over Great Britain and Ireland, some via Tasmania & some via other places, but all ended up in Victoria at some point in their journeys. Earliest arrival 1837 and most recent arrival 1903.

Westmorland, England – Place of origin of my Quaker Haughton ancestors.  Isaac Haughton, my 5x great grandfather, was born here in 1663.  Sometime after his marriage in 1686, he moved to Ireland where he settled in King’s County (now county Offaly).

Walkerville, Victoria, Australia – Formerly known as the township of Waratah, Walkerville was settled in response to the establishment of the lime-burning industry. My grandmother grew up in Waratah, where her father James Dewar was manager of the lime kilns.  I've written about the story of Walkerville here.

Township of Walkerville & Kilns

X - representing various forebears whose exact place of origin is unknown.

Yallourn, Victoria – my birthplace.  The town of Yallourn no longer exists, it was demolished in the 1970’s to make way for expansion of the open cut  brown coal mine.

Zzzzzz – that’s it from me for Family History Month!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Mary Emily Way - my 2x great-grandmother…

Mary Emily Way (1851-1935) is my 2x great-grandmother on my mothers side of the family. The following is a story I wrote, based on the known facts of her life, for the ‘Writing the Family Saga’ unit at University of Tasmania last year.  Today is her son Charles David Gardner's 145th birthday.

Mary Emily cradled her newborn son and looked across at her husband, the man who would be father to this baby. They had married just two weeks ago, a mutually acceptable arrangement. She needed a ring on her finger and a name for her child, while he needed a housekeeper. Little Charles David would grow up in a respectable home, thanks to this man.

Mary thought nostalgically of her Irish mammy; how she wished she was here now to help and advise her in her new role as a mother!

Seven months previously, twenty year old Mary Way had arrived in Greymouth alone and pregnant, after crossing the Tasman Sea from Melbourne on the S.S. Gleaner. It had been a big step, moving from the familiarity of home to establish a new life in a strange place. But Mam had done the same, and made a good life for herself and her family. Mary hoped things would work out well for her too.

Her mother, Margaret Bridget Maloney, was a farmer’s daughter from Limerick. Faced with starvation in famine-stricken Ireland, she had left for London at much the same age as Mary was now. There she had met and married Henry David Way, a bootmaker from Oxfordshire. Mary had been born within a year, and shortly afterwards the little family had taken advantage of assisted passage to Van Diemen’s Land. Five more children were born in Hobart, before the family relocated to Melbourne in 1870. Life had not been without its troubles though; her youngest baby had died aged two and her eldest son at fifteen from an epileptic seizure. Now she had effectively lost Mary as well.

We don’t know the circumstances under which Mary left her family in 1871, or why she chose Greymouth as her destination. Was she pursuing the father of her child? Possibly she intended to stay with relatives of her father, living in New Zealand. She may have been banished in disgrace, a bad example to her younger siblings. Whatever the reason, her exile was permanent, and she never returned to Melbourne.

Greymouth in the 1870’s was a frontier town. The cold, wet and windswept harbour at the mouth of the Grey River was the point from which timber and coal was shipped. The discovery of gold brought an influx of those seeking to make their fortune. Charles Gardner was one of those men, and worked hard to provide for his young wife and child. The rough work and harsh conditions took their toll and his health suffered. The winter of 1878 proved too much, and despite Mary’s careful nursing over the long winter months, the miner succumbed to exposure, leaving Mary a widow and six year old Charles again fatherless.

Greymouth Harbour, New Zealand, 1885
sketch by Mr. Pentlelow, 
published 21 October 1885 in Australasian Sketcher by Alfred Martin Ebsworth     
                                          State Library of Victoria                         

Mary did what many women thrown upon their own resources did – she found herself a new husband. Six months after Charles’s death, Mary Emily Gardner and Arthur William Tew were married in the Greymouth Registry Office. In such a small community it is likely they had known each other for some time, and even possible that Arthur, a clerk, had handled Charles’s affairs.

Young Charles grew up in Greymouth with his mother and stepfather, joined by a baby sister Clara in 1882. At fifteen, greener pastures beckoned him. In a move reminiscent of those of his mother and grandmother before him, he left Greymouth to travel alone to Melbourne, where he eventually established a successful blacksmith business.

Charles Gardner's blacksmith premises in Bentleigh, Victoria c1903 
from private family collection.

As she stood on the dock fare-welling her son, Mary must have wondered at the irony of the situation. She had left Melbourne, perhaps turned out by her family, to make a life for this boy, and now here he was, leaving her behind and returning to what she had left. She worried about what awaited him in Melbourne and how he might be received. We know that Charles did connect with his mother’s family, as his uncle and aunt, John and Jessie Way, were the witnesses at his marriage in 1894.

Life in Greymouth went on for Mary. She was widowed for the second time at Christmas 1901 when Arthur died of heart disease. Six months later her daughter Clara, nineteen and unmarried, gave birth to a baby girl named Emily. Ever practical, Mary passed the baby off as her own “change of life” baby. In an ironic twist, Mary once again found herself facing life as a single mother, thirty years after first being in that situation.
©Katrina Vincent 2016
Charles David Gardner

Monday, 3 July 2017

Transported for 10 years…

The subject of this post is Richard Pilkington, born County Clare Ireland about 1832, the son of William Pilkington, a labourer.  He’s not a confirmed relation to my family, but given the name and location, there is a fair chance of a connection somewhere.  I was prompted to explore Richard’s story while studying a unit on Convict Ancestors with University of Tasmania.

County Clare Ireland in 1850 was still in the grip of an Gorta Mór, the Great Famine. The Kilrush Poor Law Union was one of the hardest hit areas, not only dealing with the effects of the potato blight, but also the mass evictions carried out by landlords and their agents. Some of the worst devastation was instigated by Marcus Keane, known as the Exterminator General of Clare, who happened to be the brother of my great-great-grandmother Anne Keane.  I've written about Anne in a previous post.

In February 1850, at the close of another cold wet winter, people were still being found dead from starvation and exposure. Whole villages lay deserted; their former occupants either dead or emigrated. The detailed reports of Kilrush Union Poor Law Inspector Captain Arthur Kennedy, who was responsible for the relief of the poor and destitute, reveal the suffering he regularly witnessed. Coincidently, Kennedy was to become Governor of Western Australia in 1854.

Not surprising then that people resorted to whatever means they could to survive. Livestock theft was a common occurrence, and the reason 18 year old Richard Pilkington was transported for 10 years.  On the night of February 25th 1850, eight sheep were stolen from the property of Thomas Browne at Cahermurphy.  At the Assizes in Ennis in July, Richard and five other men were convicted of the crime and sentenced to transportation.  We can only guess at their motivation. Perhaps they wanted food for their families, or maybe were hoping to profit from selling the meat at the nearby markets, where mutton was selling for 5 ¼ pence per pound.  Regardless of the reason, Thomas Browne would have seemed like a soft target. He was a well-off linen merchant from Limerick who farmed several parcels of land throughout West Clare.

Clare Journal & Ennis Advertiser 4 July 1850 page 2.

The long journey to Western Australia began in Ennis jail, described in 1845 as “a thoroughly commodious and well-conducted establishment” which had recently been extended.  Four months later, Richard and two of his co-accused were among a group of 20 prisoners transferred to Spike Island Prison in Cork harbour.  Originally built as a military fortress, Spike Island had been used as a convict depot from 1847 and by the time Richard arrived housed over 2300 prisoners.   Conditions in the prison were not ideal and many of the prisoners were unwell and debilitated as a result of the famine.

Clare Journal & Ennis Advertiser 18 November 1850 page 1.

Richard’s stay at Spike Island was of unknown duration. Although the convict ship Robert Small sailed from Spike Island for Swan River with two of Richard’s partners in crime aboard, Richard must at some point have been transferred to Dublin. His convict records in Western Australia reveal he came from Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison, where his conduct was recorded as “good”, although he doesn’t appear in the Irish Prison Records which include Mountjoy.

Built as a model prison based on the separation theory, Mountjoy was completed in 1850 and provided single cells for 450 inmates.  During his time there, Richard would have been kept completely separated from his fellow inmates, in the belief that it would promote “moral and religious improvement”. In fact, the practice was associated with significant deterioration in the mental health of the prisoners.  What a contrast it must have been for Richard to go from the isolation of Mountjoy to the crowded confines of the convict ship Phoebe Dunbar.

Sketch of the Phoebe Dunbar,
Source: R.D.Shardlow, Mitchell Families Online accessed 16 June 2017.

The Phoebe Dunbar sailed from Kingstown (Dublin) on the evening of June 3rd 1853, carrying 295 male convicts, and 93 others - pensioner guards and their families.  After a voyage of 89 days, she arrived in Fremantle on 30th August.  Sixteen lives were lost on the voyage, nine of them convicts, with three more dying soon after landing. Disease had been rife on board, with many people suffering from scurvy.  Although sailing a month before the Phoebe Dunbar, the Robert Small had been delayed in transit and had arrived only a few days before. The settlement was unprepared for the influx of almost 600 convicts, many of whom were unwell. Consequently, the convicts remained on board Phoebe Dunbar for three weeks while temporary accommodation was built.

The Perth Gazette & Independent Journal of Politics & News
Friday 2 September 1853 page 2

So began life in Australia for convict number 2449, Richard Pilkington. Described on arrival as being aged 22 and single, he was 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall, of middling stout build with no distinguishing marks. He had black hair, hazel eyes and an oval face with sallow complexion.  He was Roman Catholic and could read but not write.

Richard was assigned to public works in the quarries where constant exposure to dust and grit resulted in severe ophthalmia.  He had several admissions to hospital in 1854-55; the descriptions provided of his eyes leave no doubt that his sight must have been impaired.  The treatments recorded appear to be the standard recommendations of the period, and included green shade to reduce light sensitivity, application of leeches to the temples, and use of various preparations containing mercury, silver, potassium and opium.  Diet was a part of the treatment, and consisted of tea, gruel or broth, designed to keep the digestive tract empty. Richard’s notes show additional foods were introduced as his recovery progressed.

Richard’s progress through the penal system was uneventful, his conduct ranging from “good” to “excellent” when he obtained his ticket of leave on 7th September 1854.  He spent time at Port Gregory and Freshwater Bay convict depots, but no further record of location is available after his discharge from hospital on 19th July 1855.  As a ticket of leave holder, he was able to seek employment from free settlers. He received his conditional pardon on 3rd October 1859.

The next record of Richard is his marriage in Bunbury on 31st March 1870. Emma Burk(e) is recorded as a servant and he a labourer, both residing at Belvidere. They were married by Roman Catholic Chaplain Hugh Brady at the home of James Milligan.  Belvidere was a property originally established to raise horses for the British Army in India.  It seems reasonable to assume that both Richard and Emma were employees of the estate. They had at least three children - John, Maria and Edward, with unconfirmed reports of a fourth child, Patrick.

A lifetime of poor diet, isolation, harsh treatment and hard work finally caught up with Richard. Aged 46, he died from disease of the lungs at Bunbury on 28th October 1876.  He is remembered on panel 112 of the Museum of Western Australia’s ‘Welcome Wall’ at Fremantle.

©Katrina Vincent 2017. Written for the Convict Ancestors unit, University of Tasmania. A fully referenced PDF of this work is available on request.

Monday, 22 May 2017


This story has no relevance to my own family history, but is significant in that it is an important part of the history of the town I currently call home. 

Photo of memorial card reproduced on Historical Society information board
Mornington today is growing bayside suburb on the outer fringe of Melbourne.  In 1892, it was a small rural village servicing the local fishing and agricultural communities, but with an increasing appeal as a tourist destination for visitors from Melbourne.  Like all country towns, it would have been a close-knit community where every one knew each other well.

125 years ago today the community was devastated when 15 members of their football team drowned in a boating tragedy on Port Philip Bay.  The newspapers of the day carried the story, the first headlines making the news on Monday 23rd May.


NEWS OF THE DAY. (1892, May 23). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 4. 
Retrieved May 21, 2017, from

A more detailed account of the tragedy appeared later in the paper, and also in The Argus.

SHOCKING DISASTER IN THE BAY. (1892, May 23). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 5. Retrieved  May 21, 2017, from

A Disaster Fund was set up to provide for the widows, children and elderly parents who had been left without support.  For a few months after the event, newspapers throughout Victoria carried articles about charity matches and benefits held in all communities to raise money for the fund.

Memorial to Mornington footballers who died 21st May 1892
on corner of Main St & Esplanade, Mornington
©Kaypilk 2017

Today I took the opportunity to pay a visit to the memorial which was erected by public subscription to honour the memory of those young men.  The memorial sits at the end of the main street, on the cliff top overlooking the bay. Probably in the exact spot where anxious relatives would have stood awaiting news of the overdue boat.  The monument is surrounded by a plantation of rosemary, which today was in full bloom.  The local Historical Society has erected an information board providing the visitor with the story behind the monument.

 Mornington & District Historical Society information board erected 2012
©Kaypilk 2017
   A wreath of beautiful native flowers had been placed there today by the Historical Society, marking the 125th anniversary of the event.  Other floral tributes were from the Mornington Football Club, and another from A & E Caldwell – no doubt relatives of the three Caldwell brothers who died in the accident.  A couple of other people came while I was there and placed small bunches of garden flowers.  It seems that despite the passage of time, this community has not forgotten.

From Mornington looking north towards Pelican reef where the boat capsized
©Kaypilk 2017
This poem appears on the information board at the memorial, written soon after the accident by J. S. Adams, jnr, 18th June 1892.

photographed from information board ⓒ2017

Charles ALLCHIN (20) 
James CALDWELL (21) brother
William CALDWELL (19) brother

Hugh CALDWELL (17)  brother

William COLES (23)

John COMBER (31)

James FIRTH (17) 

William E GROVER (25) uncle

William GROVER (17) nephew

Charles HOOPER (35) father

Charles F HOOPER (14) son

John KENNA (18)  

Alfred LAWRENCE (19)

George MILNE (36)

Charles WILLIAMS (23)



Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bougainville 1945 …

We’ve nineteen dead on the Buin road,
Ten more on the Jungle track,
And all day long there’s a broken tide
Of our wounded streaming back.
We’ve fought all night by the Hongarai,
With never a bite or sup;
And tomorrow’s back-page news will quote:
“Our Soldiers are mopping up.”
As dawn wakes with a jaded eye,
Discarding its misty pall,
White crosses mourn on the Numa trail
For fellows who gave their all.
In Taimba’s ridges, Sorokin’s groves,
They drained the dregs, Hell’s Cup;
The blood they gave was a passing thing,
They were merely “Mopping up.”

The screaming silence of ambushed swamp,
The horror of obscene bog,
The vicious foe in a filthy league
With blanketing rain and fog,
Are trifling things which the critics know
Should never hold heroes up.
Good Lord!  Why, this isn’t war at all!
We simply are “Mopping up!”

We make no claim to heroic mould,
But this little boon we ask;
Those armchair critics please send up here
To share in our “simple task.”
When they’re on intimate terms with Death,
And have tallied the blood-cost up,
Maybe they’ll coin more adequate phrase
Than casual “Mopping up.”

- “BLACK BOB”   

I found this poem among my father’s papers relating to his service in Bougainville during World War 2.  Dad was a bit of a bush poet, so initially I wondered if this was one of his own efforts, but a bit of research soon ruled that out.

“Black Bob” was Lieutenant Adrian L. O’Neill (1907 – 1980) of 38th Battalion.  From Echuca, Victoria, he enlisted in Narrabri, NSW and served in the Solomon Islands and Bougainville during World War 2.  His satirical poems compared the reality of jungle warfare with the perceptions of government officials, the press and those at home.

His poems are held in Australian War Memorial, Canberra.  Reference Number: MSS1328.

Capt. C.D.H. Pilkington
Bougainville 1945

                                              photo from private collection C.D.H. Pilkington©

My father, Charles Dewar Haughton Pilkington (1908 – 1978),  known to all as Haughton or ‘Haught’, served as an Australian Army Chaplain in World War 2.  He was stationed at Mt. Isa in Queensland, then Bougainville and Fauro Island in the Pacific Islands.  Army chaplains carried the rank of Captain, but were generally known to the men as “Padre”.

Anglican chaplains outside Pattison Chapel, Headquarters 3 Division
Torokina, Bougainville 9/11/1945
my father is seated 2nd left

                                                     Photo from Australian War Memorial 098674

A much more in depth account of the Bougainville campaign than I could ever give can be found on the Last Battles website – In the Shadows.

Army Bougainville (2)
Native troops, Bougainville

Numa Numa Tramway, Bougainville

Japanese surrender, Bougainville 1945

photos from private collection C.D.H. Pilkington ©
Dad never spoke about his war service experiences in anything other than a general way.  As a Chaplain, I don’t think he would have been involved in the hands-on fighting.  His work would have involved providing spiritual and emotional comfort to the wounded and dying. 
I know from the records I have seen that he conducted battlefield burials – done hastily at the end of the day, with the exact locations of each burial carefully recorded in relation to surrounding landmarks, so that the bodies could be exhumed at a later time and re-interred in the Torokina War Cemetary. 
After the war, all those buried at Torokina were again exhumed and transferred to the Bomana War Cemetery in Port Moresby, PNG.

Bomana War Cemetery, PNG
Bomana War Cemetery, Port Moresby, PNG
©Kaypilk 2008

Once the day’s burials were over,  the Chaplain’s work included writing to the family of the deceased soldier.  This could not have been an easy task, but any fragment of comfort or information provided would have been welcomed by those at home, as a follow-up to the stark reality of the official telegram.  Among Dad’s papers are a handful of letters written back to him by the families of fallen soldiers.  The contents reveal how much appreciated the letter written by my father was.  

As one mother wrote:  “It was such a relief to know that he did not have to suffer long, and that he had a decent burial.” 

Another widow wrote: “it is of great comfort to know he had a proper Christian burial and was not left lying in some unknown spot.”

Some day, I would like to use these letters to write about these men, regular Aussie blokes who gave their lives in the service of their country.  But that’s another project, and for now I would just like to acknowledge these men today, and to recognise all those who served - in Bougainville, and all other conflicts. 

Private Archibald Campbell HARRIS – Chiltern, Victoria

Private Callander William Kenneth SCOTT – Hampton, Victoria

Private Leslie Edward Palmer NORTH – Ararat, Victoria

Sapper Ewing Arthur WINWARD – Whittlesea, Victoria

Corporal Robert NASH – Leederville, WA

Private Keith GUNTER – North Bondi, NSW

Sergeant Howell Keith MIDGLEY – Billabong, Victoria

Sergeant Arthur Allan BENNETT – Merbein, Victoria

Private Leonard Birdwood HATELEY – North Williamstown, Victoria

Lieutenant Frederick Richard LONGMORE – Elsternwick, Victoria



Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Walkerville … a Trove Tuesday post.

Tucked away in comparative isolation on Victoria’s southern coastline is Walkerville – one of my favorite places to visit.  Walkerville lies in the north-western curve of Waratah Bay, sheltered from the prevailing westerlies and providing a spectacular view across the bay to Wilson’s Promontory. 

This was where my grandmother grew up, and the place has always been special to me.  I doubt if there has been a single summer in my life which has not included a visit to Walkerville for picnics, beach rambles or a bushwalk. 

But Walkerville hasn’t always been a quiet place.  For a period of about 50 years in the late 19th & early 20th centuries, Walkerville was a thriving little community based on the important lime-burning trade.

Walkerville 2015 © K. Vincent

In October 1874, the following small paragraph appeared in The Age newspaper:

1874 article
NEWS OF THE DAY. (1874, October 12). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2.
                                                                    Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

The article heralded the beginning of a new industry for the colony of Victoria.  Lime was in high demand for the building industry, and marble was mostly imported.  The area had been surveyed in 1868 by Lieutenant H. J. Stanley of the Admiralty & Colonial Marine Survey.  He had reported good anchorage in this south-west corner of Waratah Bay, except during south & south-easterly gales.

1868 map Waratah Bay SLV
      Stanley, H. J. (Henry James) (1868). Australia, South coast, Victoria. Waratah Bay. Hydrographic Office, [London]

Consequently, the ‘township’ of Waratah was proclaimed in February 1874, with a view to the area’s suitability as a port for servicing the gold diggings at Stockyard Creek (now Foster).
In May of 1875, a group of enterprising businessmen from Melbourne chartered the steamer Williams, leaving from Sandridge Pier for Waratah Bay to inspect the location.

1875 article
NEWS OF THE DAY. (1875, May 3). The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 - 1954), p. 2.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

The full account of the trip, in the same edition, can be read here:  WARATAH BAY AND ITS LIMESTONE DEPOSITS

Marble Cliffs 

Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers (Melbourne, Vic. : 1867 - 1875), p. 84.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

The group wasted no time in commencing operations, with the formation of the Waratah Bay Lime & Marble Company – just four months later, in September, Melbourne newspapers carried advertisements calling for tenders for the erection of lime kilns at Waratah Bay.
Advertising (1875, September 7). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 3.
Retrieved February 4, 2017, from

The following year, Bright Brothers & Co., shipping agents, advertise for a vessel for the shipment of lime from Waratah Bay to Melbourne.

ad for ship 1876
                                      Advertising (1876, October 9). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 1.
Retrieved February 5, 2017, from

(1879). Loading lime, Waratah Bay. Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth, Melbourne  from SLV, originally published in Australasian Sketcher

Transporting lime by sea was not without danger, as the risk of fire was significant if the cargo should become wet.   The process of burning limestone in the kilns produces quicklime, a highly caustic powder which generates high temperatures when in contact with water.  The quicklime produced in the Waratah kilns was bagged for shipment to Melbourne, and if the ship encountered heavy weather at sea, the risk of water entering the hold and triggering the chemical reaction which would cause spontaneous combustion was significant. 

The history of the lime industry at Waratah is peppered with stories of fires on board ship.  The first recorded was that of the Phoenix in November 1876, shortly after Bright Bros. placed the above advertisement.

Phoenix fire 1876
LOSS OF THE KETCH PHOENLY (1876, November 18). Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 - 1954), p. 15.
Retrieved February 5, 2017, from

Other similar events occurred over the following years:
1884 Gazelle
1886 John & May
1908 Meeinderry
1913 Centurion
1918 Wyrallah
1927 Defender

An article in The Age 5 February 1877, reporting on the voyage of HMCS Victoria to Sydney and return, mentions the jetty at Waratah being under construction.  

Walkerville jetty
from Pilkington family collection

My great-grandfather, James Dewar, was appointed manager of the new lime works.  The exact date of his appointment is not known, but first reference I have found to him at Waratah is 1878.

James Dewar 1829 - 1907
Manager of Waratah lime works
from Pilkington family collection

James Dewar was a Scotsman who came to Australia in the 1850’s, and probably spent time on the Central Victorian goldfields.  On his marriage certificate in Geelong in 1859, he is listed as a quarryman.  By the time my grandmother’s birth was registered in Tootgarook in 1874, his occupation was lime burner.  It is reasonable to assume he was at that time employed at the lime kilns in Rye. 

James Dewar continued as manager of the Waratah kilns until his death in 1907.  During that time, he also served as post-master, electoral officer and registrar for the little community.  Upon his death, his son Alexander Dewar succeeded as manager, and when he went off to World War 1, brother Jim took over.

Over the course of its history, the Waratah kilns changed hands several times.  The name of the original township of Waratah was changed in about 1890 to Walkerville, named after William Froggatt Walker, Commissioner for Customs, who was part of a consortium which took over the kilns from Bright Bros. in 1884.  Later, in 1892, ownership changed again to Andrew A. McCrae.  

Walkerville kilns & jetty c1900
from Pilkington family collection

Increasing transport costs and competition from railways, combined with reduced demand from the building trade, eventually made production of lime at Walkerville uneconomical.  The kilns closed finally in 1926, although the nearby kiln at Bell Point struggled on for another year or so.  Following closure, and with no other employment opportunities in the immediate area, the workers and their families moved away, leaving Walkerville deserted.   Gradually, the bush reclaimed the surrounding area, and the jetty and kilns deteriorated.

deteriorating jetty - date unknown

from Pilkington family collection
Today, Walkerville is a quiet little holiday destination, popular with campers and fishing enthusiasts.  Homes change hands rarely, and for premium prices when they do.  Apart from the ruins of the kilns which dominate the beach, and the little cemetery up on the cliff, there are only small reminders of the industry and activity which once took place.

Walkerville township from jetty 1928
from Pilkington family collection ©

One stone wall containing the fireplace and chimney is all that remains of James Dewar’s residence, and now forms part of the retaining wall on the roadside.  A few patches of nasturtiums and some pea-flowered climbers among the bush are relicts of the former cottage gardens.  Just a single timber pylon survives from the jetty which once curved 300 feet out into the bay.

great-great-granddaughters of James Dewar, with last remaining jetty pylon
© K. Vincent 2012
In recent years, efforts have been made to protect the remains of the kilns and prevent further deterioration.  Signage has been created to inform the visitor of the history and significance of the area.  A short climb along a steep path leads to the little cemetery where James & Margaret Dewar lie at rest with others from the early settlement.


Walkerville kiln 2015  © K. Vincent