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Showing posts from September, 2023

Swannel Part 1 - Meet a truly remarkable character

This week we turn the clock back to 1859, where we meet a truly remarkable character – someone whose unwavering determination and boundless spirit left an indelible mark on many landscapes. This fella didn’t just settle townships; he sowed the seeds of communities, breathed life into new villages, and never knew the meaning of giving up. He worked tirelessly to make a difference, of which he achieved before dying so young, aged 41 years. John Swannell was born in London, England in 1839. He arrived in Melbourne by the time he turned 20 years of age and married 16-year-old Mary Ann Rogers the following year. The newlyweds settled well into the Pentland Hills area, with John building the Commercial Hotel in Ballan, and then being appointed committee member of the Pentland Hills Common School in 1862, the same year their first daughter arrived, Mary Ann. Two years later, they celebrated the birth of their first son, John Thomas. While things were developing at home, John was often caught

Blooms, prizes & persistent struggles in obtaining permission!

Last week we enjoyed the Agricultural Shows that were held in the district from 1870s through to 1898 when the show scene was wrapped up. Before we proceed, it is worth mentioning the fervour that regular ploughing competitions brought to Myrniong from the late 1800s and into the next century. In the midst of 1886, Thomas McCluskey generously offered his paddocks as a venue for the annual ploughing competition hosted by the Bacchus Marsh, Ballan, and Pentland Hills Agricultural Society. This event drew seventeen skilled competitors who tackled the dry, slightly uneven terrain, pitting the abilities of seasoned veterans against one another. The catering for this gathering was expertly handled by Mrs Grace Purcell, proprietor of the Plough Hotel, and it goes without saying that her work was marked by its customary thoroughness. Unfortunately, Mrs. Purcell encountered a challenge in supplying “sufficient refreshments” due to the demanding requirements for her special license from the auth

"Show Exhibits worthy of anywhere in the Colony" 1884

The earliest exhibition showcasing dairy produce, livestock, and farm products emerged in the 1870s. These events took place annually, with locations alternating between Ballan and Bacchus Marsh.  However, due to strong opposition, the committee decided to relocate the show midway to Myrniong, which significantly increased patronage and attendance over the years. Myrniong eventually became the permanent home for the society's annual exhibitions. These events attracted high-class showmen, including leading draught-horse exhibitors from Melbourne and Ballarat. One memorable incident involved some chaos among dairy cows due to inadequate pens, resulting in them rushing and butting each other, not an uncommon sight at any B&S Ball! The Plough Hotel always reaped benefits from the local Myrniong Show by providing on-site catering or hosting post-show gatherings. On one occasion, approximately 40 men enjoyed an excellent dinner at Thomas Ryan's Plough Hotel after the show, with

Why is there no "n" in Restaurateur, courtesy of Grammarly

This week, we move from the early 1900s, going back to the European 12th Century – not local history, but a story that is very close to our heart, encompassing what we love best: Hospitality, more specifically, Restaurateurs! The below extract is taken from, a fabulous website for all things literature, grammatical, and down-right interesting. This article is written by Hailey Spinks and last updated on 3 March 2023. Please enjoy, and show your appreciation by becoming a free subscriber to Grammarly’s emails, and learn a little every week! ––––––––– Why Is There No “N” in Restaurateur? written by Hailey Spinks Updated on, March 3, 2023 Have you ever thought that the word “restaurateur” is missing an “n”? If the answer is “yes”, you’re not alone! And if you’ve been typing “restauranteur” and getting flagged for misspelling, it’s not a glitch. Even though the word refers to someone who owns or manages a restaurant, the “n” from “restaurant” disappears

The Dore sisters saga - Conclusion

This week we wrap up the tale of the Dore sisters, their husbands and their wives! It’s fascinating to see how the lives of these individuals intertwined and how they left their mark in history. Mary McCluskey’s story is one of resilience and connection with her family despite the challenging circumstances. She chose to live with her nephew William Dunbar Junior after her husband Peter McCluskey’s well-known bigamy court case in 1881. Her decision to keep her married name throughout her life could have been influenced by various factors, including personal attachment or social considerations of the time. After her husband Peter McCluskey passed away in 1899, he was known to be married but living separately from his wife. Although it’s not definitively mentioned, you assume that Mary might have been the wife he was living apart from. Mary McCluskey and Peter McCluskey both found their final resting place at the Melbourne General Cemetery, sharing a burial plot. Interestingly, James Dun

The Dore sisters saga - Part 4

This week we continue our chronicles on the Dore sisters and their Pentland Hills lives in the second half of the 1800s. Peter McCluskey was discharged from the Williamstown Gaol at the end of December 1882 after serving time for bigamy. He immediately embarked on a new venture: engaging in the sale of land and as a “financier” across Victoria, beginning in January 1883. He quickly took stock of his assets and created an opportunity for some immediate income by renting out his cottage situated on 50 acres of prime cleared land at an undisclosed location, boasting the “grandest view in Victoria at an elevation of 1500 feet”. (While this location was not mentioned, I believe it to be his Rosehill estate in Myrniong.) Peter touted this location as a potential "permanent cure for liver complaint” – obscure, yet creative! By September 1883, Peter had established his company “McCluskey & Co.” which facilitated the sale of his Rosehill Estate, spanning 1040 acres. Mr. S Steele was th

The Dore sisters saga - Part 3

Last week, our focus shifted to Mary Dore, the second of the Dore sisters, who entered into matrimony with Peter McCluskey, an early Myrniong farmer loaded with idiosyncrasies. In this week’s narrative, we delve further into the accounts of history. Peter McCluskey resettled on his farm at Rosehill, Myrniong, dedicating his efforts to raising shorn ewes and lambs for market. Alongside him stood his brother-in-law, William Dunbar Snr. Peter sold his fenced and improved acreage in the celebrated Pentland Hills, advertised as a parcel of land renowned as the “finest agricultural expanse in the colony”. Yet, the tides of fate took a sudden turn in March 1881, as Peter McCluskey faced the grievous charge of Bigamy—a transgression both unforgivable and typically avoidable, entailing the simultaneous marriage to two individuals. He was arrested by the Bacchus Marsh AND Myrniong police, securing his bail release with a sum totaling £300 along with a further two sureties amounting to £100 each.

The Dore sisters sage - Part 2

I continue this week with more “Dores” and stories to tantalize your curiosity of all things past, and try to answer “how did we get here?” Last week we met Margaret Dore, who was William Dunbar’s second wife and mother to five of his children, living in Pentland Hills until her passing in 1878. Margaret immigrated from Limerick, Ireland with her sister Mary Dore who worked as a housekeeper at Ingleston Station. Mary married Peter McCluskey, who also worked on the Station in 1859, around the same time as her sister and William Dunbar married. Peter purchased acreage known as “Rosehill” and owned this land for many years. Things were looking good for the Dore sisters in the new colony, however, things started to become unhinged when Mary’s husband Peter was sentenced to the Yarra Bend Lunatic Asylum in late 1871. After 6 months inside, he reportedly escaped, dressed in standard Asylum attire and headed back to Pentland Hills! He was soon apprehended and, a few months later, applied to h

The Dore sisters saga - Part 1

LET’S DISH UP SOME HISTORY from The Plough @ Myrniong My next story will require many threads to explore thoroughly, so I suggest you sit back, relax, and concentrate! It is an intertwined web of fabulous tales and families, and one I am sure you will enjoy. Without creating too much confusion, I will start by introducing Anne Jane Tyson, however Anne is not related to the “John Tyson” clan from Myrniong’s Plough Inn Hotel, although she did have a brother named “John Tyson” who lived a very successful and prosperous life in and around Melbourne. (Hang in there – I can explain...) Anne Jane Tyson was the first female of her family to immigrate to the new Australian colony, leaving Southampton on 9 May 1853 aboard Lady Kennaway. (While this ship was regularly used as a convict ship, Anne’s sailing consisted of cargo and 274 emigrants, all of whom arrived in good health however 3 infants died during the voyage.) It docked in Port Phillip Bay in August 1853 where she promptly secured her

Happy 162nd Birthday to The Plough

LET’S DISH UP SOME HISTORY from The Plough @ Myrniong  This week we are celebrating The Plough’s birthday! 162 years ago, on 26 July 1861, the licencee of the newly built weatherboard Plough Inn Hotel in the “thriving township of Myrniong”, Mr Alfred Smith, celebrated by hosting a ball. As reported in The Argus the following week: “There was a large attendance, and dancing was kept up till daylight.” Things are a bit “tamer” these days, however we invite you to celebrate with us this week with a couple of offers to entice you to join us: Thursday: HALF-PRICE Birthday Martinis Friday: FREE glass of Birthday Bubbles (cuvĂ©e)

Toll Gates in 1860

Last week we discussed the marvels that Michael O’Connell contributed to our region, and in particular, to The Plough where, in 1878, he and his family took in 7-year-old orphaned Thomas Ryan Junior when he lost both parents, licensees of The Plough, 3 years apart. A little more about Michael who was a road contractor around 1854, after trying his hand at the gold diggings in Ballarat (as did most males in the colony during that period!) He was attributed to building the road from Melbourne leading into Bacchus Marsh, known as Anthony’s Cutting around 1854, although he couldn’t accomplish this alone. He had the services of David Symes (yes, that “David Symes”, who later went on to establish The Age newspaper)! Bacchus Marsh drew all the “big guns” during its formative years. New roads = toll gates, and they were numerous in the 1860s. Between Bacchus Marsh and Melbourne, you would encounter three toll gates to pass with the first being located five chains (about 100 metres) on the Mel

Michael O'Connell, 1859

Last week we spoke about Thomas Ryan, licensee of The Plough Hotel from 1866 until his untimely death 10 years later, aged only 45 years.   His wife, Mary took over the running of The Plough for the next couple of years with the assistance of her beloved brother Michael Meehan until a fatal accident in 1878 killed him, casting a somber atmosphere over the district.  While driving his horse and buggy down Blackwood Road, Myrniong on a miserably wet night, his cart overturned, throwing his passenger clear while trapping Michael underneath resulting in a broken neck.  Mary took her brother’s passing hard and within 18 months, her failing health tooks it toll on her, leaving her only son, 7-and-a-half year old Thomas Junior, an orphan. He was taken in by Michael & Ellen O’Connell, who resided in Bacchus Marsh with a large family of their own. Whatever happened to Thomas Junior, I do not know. However Michael O’Connell was a successful and most interesting character. He arrived in

Thomas Ryan, 1866

Here we are in September 1866 Mr Thomas Ryan, 35 years old and the current licensee of The Plough Inn Hotel since 1865. He married his bride, Mary Meehan, 4 years later. They purchased Mr Burke’s store, hotel (The Plough Inn Hotel) and adjoining land. Two years later, the Ryan’s first child was born – Michael. Sadly, Michael passed away in October of that same year, aged nine months. In early 1872, the Ryans welcomed another child to their family – Thomas Jnr (more on Junior next week...) Thomas Ryan (Senior) was considered an “old resident” of Myrniong, but not in the chronological sense! He was a fundamental contributor to the establishment of this new and thriving township. He became a Justice of the Peace in 1868 after much contention due to his Irish hereditary and all that this implied politically. He participated in Coroner Inquests for the region, was a member of the Bacchus Marsh and Maddingley Roads Board (a pre-cursor to the local Council), member of the Myrniong Mechanics I

Violet Hunter, 1854

After reviewing many old survey maps of the district from as early as 1843, I have only been able to locate one female landowner, Violet Hunter, on a subdivision map of Pentland Hills dated 9 August 1854 (map from State Library Victoria). There were very few other lots labelled at this time, however, within a short time, all of the lots were purchased with many tradesmen from Bacchus Marsh seeing the opportunity that the friable and choice lots offered. How did Violet’s land ownership come about? Here is a postulated scenario that you might enjoy. After the death of her husband George Hunter which occurred at sea, towards the end of their voyage to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, Violet Hunter and her four children arrived in Melbourne as Assisted Immigrant passengers on the ship “Blonde” in 1848. It is likely that Violet faced significant challenges as a widow with young children, but she persevered and eventually acquired land, possibly after receiving funds from her husband’s will. F

Where is Myrniong?

Myrniong is a town located in the state of Victoria, Australia. It is situated in one of the oldest settled districts in the region. The town’s history can be traced back to the mid-19th century (1852) when Captain William Wootton Blow held a large selection of fertile land in the vicinity to fulfill the government’s requirement to feed the sudden influx of diggers which resulted in a population explosion. The relatively flat land became known as Blow’s Flat, after Captain Blow. It is interesting to note that the name “Blow’s Flat” seems appropriate considering the surrounding hilly landscapes of Pentland Hills and Mt Blackwood.  The Crown subdivided and sold Captain Blow's land in 1856, leaving the Captain to relocate back to Melbourne for a few years before heading back to Middlesex, England shortly thereafter to live out the rest of his days. He died in 1885, aged 72 years. The first mention of “Myrniong” was as early as 1854, when the township was located on sub-division M