Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Mailer family of ‘Glencairn’, Moreland

Scottish merchant Robert Mailer and his wife Isabella Georgeson were pioneers of the area in Coburg’s south known as Moreland. They lived at ‘Glencairn’ (built in 1859) on part of the original Crown Portion 133, bought by Farquhar McCrae in October 1839 and named after his grandfather’s plantation ‘Moreland’ in Jamaica. In 1912 Mailer subdivided the property into 50 blocks, but lived on at ‘Glencairn’ where he died in 1927 aged 91.

Black and white architectural drawing of ‘Glencairn’, south elevation, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Four views of the interior of ‘Glencairn’ taken about 1975, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

‘Glencairn’ about 1980, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

The Mailers raised seven children at ‘Glencairn’ (three other children died in infancy). Their three surviving sons were educated at Scotch College and Mebourne University and were accomplished cricketers. Third son Ramsay was Melbourne Cricket Club President at the time of his death in 1943 and had also been the Victorian Cricket Association patron. Youngest son David was such a talented player that his 1937 obituary described him as one of the best cricketers Scotch College had ever had.

Sons Melrose and Ramsay both became doctors, Melrose working with his own son Melrose Holtam in Coburg and Ramsay becoming a specialist in nervous disorders. David became a grazier in Victoria’s Mallee. Daughters Jane and Sarah did not marry. Their two other children Catherine and Isabella married, but Catherine (Aitchison) died in 1895 aged 35 and Isabella (Hearn) died in 1929 aged 57. 

Of the three Mailer sons, one served overseas during World War One: their youngest son David, who enlisted in March 1916 aged 41. By then he had been married for four years to Catherine McNab. 14053 Private David Mailer served with the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station and left Australia in late May 1916. Four months later he arrived in France and remained there until the end of the war. While he was absent, his wife took charge of his brother’s convalescent home, ‘Hethersett’ in Burwood, but more on that later. David Mailer was discharged in London in July 1919 and when he returned to Australia established himself as a grazier on the property ‘Athol’ at Shepparton where he died in 1937.

Melrose Mailer, the couple’s eldest son, worked as a doctor in Coburg until his death in 1926. His eldest daughter Ada married Eric Ivo Lowther Graves, a doctor and returned serviceman. (Two of Graves’ brothers also served.) Daughter Katie married another returned serviceman James Alfred Larwill and his son Melrose Holtom, a doctor like his father, also served. More on this group in a later post.

Middle son Ramsay Mailer, another doctor, donated and ran the convalescent home ‘Hethersett’ in Burwood with the help of family members and friends. This will be the subject of a later post.

The Mailer family, who could be considered members of Coburg's early gentry, not only made a significant contribution to the area’s history but also to the war effort during World War One.

Coburg Historical Society Newsletter, #8, July 1978
Richard Broome, Coburg between two creeks
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
Argus, 3 March 1917
Argus, 23 December 1937
Coburg Historical Society’s image collection
National Archives of Australia, WW1 service records
Australian War Memorial

Friday, 2 June 2017

More on James Atkin of Willow Grove

Since I wrote my last blog entry on James Atkin of Willow Grove, Coburg I've been given some extra material, which I thought I'd share.

Robin Hood Rifles, South Africa.

James' grandson writes: 'The group photo of the Robin Hood Rifles as they were known is confirmed by an inscription in my grandfather's watch given to him by the officers mess when he returned home from South Africa to his family.'

He also writes: 'The inscription on the group photo shows him incorrectly in the top row. I believe that he is third from the right in the bottom row.'  

James' grandson has also sent two more photographs of James (Jim or Jimmy to the family). The first is taken on a football field somewhere in England. The second is a portrait of James Atkin in uniform.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

James Atkin of Willow Grove, Coburg

 James Atkin. Image courtesy Col Drewitt.

The photograph you see here is of James Atkin, a Nottingham-born mill hand who served for 14 years with the Robin Hood Rifles (known as the Robin Hoods). He went on to serve with the Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regiment) for another 18 months. (The Sherwood Foresters later took the place of the Robin Hoods when the Territorial Force was formed in 1908.)

The Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) embarking for South Africa. Image courtesy 

From January 1900 until July 1901, James served in the Anglo-Boer war in South Africa, leaving his wife Gertrude at home in Nottingham.

Some years later, in March 1912, James and Gertrude Atkins left England bound for Melbourne. Childless, they had with them 4 year old Annie Atkin, James' niece whom they had adopted.

The couple settled in Willow Grove, Coburg, in a home they called 'Trent Villa'. In 1915, James, now 38 years old, enlisted and served for a while at Ascot Vale then as a Sergeant at the Officers' Training School. 

5333 Pte (later Sgt) James Atkin, 1st AIF. Image courtesy Col Drewitt.

He embarked for overseas in April 1916 with the 22nd Battalion (9th Reinforcements) and arrived in France in June 1917 where he was joined the 60th Battalion. Like many others, he suffered from trench fever and bronchitis, but unlike so many others, he was not injured.

In 1918 he was awarded the Military Medal for his role at the second battle of Villers Bretonneux (24 to 27 April 1918).

Originally recommended for the Distinguished Conduct Medal, he was instead awarded the Military Medal for his 'splendid courage, devotion to duty, leadership, and utter disregard for personal danger at Villers Bretonneux.'

James returned to Melbourne in mid-August 1919 and on Monday 24 November 1919 he and his wife Gertrude proudly set off for Federal Government House where the Governor-General was to present the award. Disaster struck when in the grounds of Government House Gertrude felt unwell and died almost immediately. She was only 37.

Ballarat Star, 25 November 1918, p.2

The Weekly Times was blunt to the point of insensitivity in its headline:

 Weekly Times, 29 November 1919, p.36.

After Gertrude's death, James Atkin remained in Coburg. He married again in 1921 - to Ira Anderson - and they had two children whom they brought up in Coburg. Their son served in World War Two and later established himself as an orchardist at Humevale. Their daughter married and remained in Coburg for many years after James' death from pancreatic cancer in 1932. 

Of Annie, the adopted daughter who came with them from England, little can be told. Family sources say that she was a difficult child who became a difficult teenager and in the end she was asked to leave the family home. After that, nothing is known of Annie's story.

Annie Atkin (on motor bike) with a member of the Anderson family, date uncertain. Image courtesy Col Drewitt.

A family member dates this photo at c1942, but looking at the clothing style and the motor bike, I wonder if it wasn't taken at least a decade or two earlier.

Is there someone out there who knows something about motor bikes and could put a date to this bike? I can see it has the number 77, so have assumed it's some sort of racing bike - perhaps a dirt track racing bike. Would love to know more!  

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Percy Chaster Brearley

Percy Brearley was born at Geelong, but enlisted in the 23rd Battalion at Rutherglen in February 1915 aged 25 years 6 months. 

He qualified for a commission and was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in December 1916 and then served with the 46th Battalion. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in July 1917 and mentioned is Sir Douglas Haig's dispatches in November that year.

Image courtesy AWM. Image E01794. 6 March 1918, France. Group portrait of the officers of the 46th Battalion. Left to right, back row: Lieutenant (Lt) Matthew Martin Cuddihy; Lt William Jackson; Lt Nevinson Willoughby Faulkner MC MM; Lt Alfred Bernard Mortimer; Lt Ernest Alexander Charlton; Lt Reginald Francis Foster; Lt Leslie Byrne MC (killed in action 18 September 1918). Middle row: Lt Arthur Frank Stanley Dobson; Lt Wilfred Crosbie Pleasance MC: Lt Arthur John Chilvers Muriel MC; Lt Walter Hood MC; Lt Alfred Benjamin Reginald Edward Willison MC; Lt Leopold Bull MC (died of wounds received in action 7 April 1918); Lt Reginald Eric Daton Palmer (died of illness 4 December 1918); Lt Donald Murchison Sandral; Lt Charles Edward Palstra; Lt Albert Victor James MM; Lt Sydney Albert Latimer; Lt Arthur Phillip Percival Kemp MC; Lt Percy Chaster Brearley. Front row: Lt James Picken Cowey MC; Lt Frank Osborne Cameron; Captain (Capt) George Eric Milne MC (died of wounds received in action 5 April 1918); Major Ernest Samuel Davis; Temporary Lieutenant Colonel Hubert Cedric Ford DSO; Capt George Stanley Vanstan MC; Lt Thomas Garden Carter MC; Lt Leonard Lutterell Coulson MM; Capt Donald Barclay Payne MC; Capt Frank Elliott Trenoweth True MC.

He was wounded in France in July 1918 and sent to England where he married Emily Maidment at Withycombe, Somerset on 30 April 1919. Six months earlier he had written to the authorities to say he intended to settle in England after his marriage, but towards the end of 1919, he and Emily sailed for Australia.

Percy and Emily Brearley settled in Gaffney Street, Pascoe Vale and from 1930 until 1936 he served as a Coburg Councillor and was Mayor in 1933-34. According to one newspaper report he was the first returned serviceman to be appointed Mayor of Coburg.

Percy Chaster Brearley, c1930s. Image 17294. Image courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

In September 1935, the Brearleys and their daughter Erica (born c1921) left Melbourne for Adelaide where Percy worked in the Commonwealth Audit Office for several years. 

In the 1940s, the family moved to the United States where they lived in Manhattan for a decade. They were frequent visitors to the United Kingdom over the years and it is there that their daughter Erica married and lived until her death in 1977.

Emily and Percy Brearley returned to Australia to live in Sandringham. Percy died in 1957 aged 67. His wife returned to England and died in Yorkshire in 1989 aged 93, having outlived her husband and her daughter.

Although the Brearley family lived in Coburg for only a decade, they contributed to the community through their civic work in the 1930s, a period of unemployment and great distress. Together with the Town Clerk, F.W. Shore, Percy Brearley organised numerous carnivals and other events to raise funds to support Coburg's unemployed.