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Swannell Part 2 – A sombre time that grips the entire community

We continue John Swannell’s story, this week in the early months of 1867, when he had quite a task on hand.

With the Myrniong Races being held on New Year’s Day, the sweltering heat didn’t deter John’s responsibiity of quenching the thirst of the visiting gentlemen with gallons of ginger beer and lemonade. Quite the feat and one appreciated by everyone in attendance.

John also successfully secured a Slaughtering Licence for his Myrniong butcher shop, further diversifying his talents. Alongside him, Henry Simmons, owner of the general store & post office, became Agents for Bacchus Marsh Express Newspaper for the residents of Myrniong.

Mid-year, John contributed to his challenges, submitting a tender for road maintenance in Bacchus Marsh. By then, he had also accrued over a dozen blocks of land throughout the Myrniong township.

The early days of 1868 brought joy alongside continued community involvement for John. His second daughter, Elizabeth, was born, while he remained deeply engaged in improving the local infrastructure. Tenders for upgrading the Myrniong bridge, located west of the township, were posted, with John involved in all three tenders. Two of these proposals included a generous buy-back offer of 15 pounds to purchase the old bridge. The debate was whether the new bridge should be made of timber or solid stone with the latter winning out.

In July 1868, a cloud of sadness descended upon the region when 6-year-old Mary Ann Swannell passed away due to croup, after only two days of illness.

What followed was a heartwarming display of support from the community. Sixty young students from Mary Ann’s school, Myrniong Primary School, played a crucial role in her funeral procession. The teachers provided them with rosettes and bands of mourning, and the church bells solemnly tolled at one o’clock to signal the beginning of the procession. The students marched in double file to pay their respects to Mary Ann. Schoolteacher Mr. Webbe, assisted by Mr. Chamen from Landsberg Mains, guided the students through this emotional moment.

The coffin was carried by ten of the older students to the Church of England, followed by the students and many other townsfolk. Mr Webbe proceeded to read part of the burial service before the older girls carried the coffin to the outskirts of Myrniong where the hearse was waiting. The students gathered on either side of the road to create an avenue of honour for the procession to pass through, on its way to the Bacchus Marsh Church.

The procession was joined by over two hundred people, seventy vehicles, and countless horseback riders, all showing their profound respect for the Swannell family.

Prior to this heart-wrenching occasion, no funeral from Pentland Hills had seen such a tremendous turnout. Mary Ann Swannell was laid to rest at Maddingly Cemetery, leaving behind a legacy of community spirit and support that is indicative of those early days of trials and tributions.

Next week we continue to follow John Swannells vast array of activities and ventures, along with his growing family.


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