4. In and Around Bendigo

"For the folk were mostly Irish round about."

(A.B. ("Banjo") Paterson,
"Father Riley's Horse")


Prior to the discovery of gold at Bendigo, most of the area consisted of two station runs - Barnedown run (taken up by H.G. Bennett) and Mount Alexander North or Ravenswood (occupied by Frederick Fenton). Nearby was Donald Campbell's Bullock Creek run. Gold was discovered in Bendigo Creek in October 1851 and many, having finished shearing operations, were prospecting for it in November. The long, hot dry summer hampered operations. But word got abroad, and by January 1852 the road to these diggings became the busiest thoroughfare in the colonies, and soon the worst. George Baker, describing that road from Melbourne in January 1852, describes it:

"A terrible road cows ..... and horses laying dead every now and then by the roadside having fallen from exhaustion and been left there; across the plains the hot wind blowing, the musquitoes (sic), the fine sand and flies, with your Trowsers (sic) full of ants and stooping under the heavy pack, all these combined show a slight specimen of its joy not only of migration but of what we undergo in an attempt to make a fortune in a hurry."

A little later a freak thunderstorm turned the road into a quagmire. The only buildings of any consequence in the immediate vicinity of the diggings were the Porcupine Inn and the rough slab homestead of Ravenswood run. The road ran through the Ravenswood station yards before branching, one track going eastward through the home paddocks, skirting the hills and entering into the Bendigo Valley by way of Sheepwash Creek, the other main track climbing directly over the range and leading immediately to the creek and the workings at Kangaroo and Golden Gullies.

Bendigo and District

Bendigo and District

(Courtesy Mitchell Library, Sydney)

Because of dry weather, the road to the Sheepwash from Bendigo Creek "was thronged with men carting wash-stuff or plodding back with supplies of murky, evil-tasting water that brought as much as 2/6 a bucket in Golden Gully. On the waterhole at the Sheepwash every inch of washing space was occupied and men sat around for hours waiting for their turn. Afterwards, with gold stowed in their match-boxes they plodded the slow eight miles back to the valley. March moved into April. The heat grew less, but the drought persisted. The Sheepwash was dry; the nearest water was at Bullock Creek or Emu Creek, many miles off."

Lord Cecil, later Prime Minister of England, arrived at the Sheepwash on 2nd March 1852, "his black coat and top hat powdered white with dust". His trip from Forest Creek was "perilous", the driver Commissioner Cockburn having spent "overlong at Forest Creek quenching his thirst. With relief, Lord Cecil sank into the only chair on the Sheepwash".

The drought broke in May and the diggings along Bendigo Creek turned into a quagmire. The men had little protection from the wet in their flimsy tents, but they no longer trekked to the Sheepwash with their wash-dirt.1

An early arrival was Rev. Dr Henry Backhaus, son of a boot merchant in Paderborn, Prussia, who became Doctor of Divinity in Rome at the age of 25 years. He was "an outstanding pianist, a skilled practitioner of homoeopathic medicines, an astute businessman, and an ecumenist before his time

Appointed to the goldfields by Father Geoghegan, he went to Forest Creek in April 1852, and remained there till the end of the month, then he road along a bush-track to Bendigo. In a tent, at a spot near Golden Point, on Sunday, 2nd May, he celebrated his first public Mass on the Bendigo diggings. Nearby, at Consecrated Flat, he erected a tent-chapel, which in the late summer of 1853 was replaced with a Church, built, in a day, of bark and slabs. In April 1854, he applied for a land grant and this was granted later in the year. (Dr Backhaus was not the first to bring the ministrations of the Gospel to these diggings, for a Wesleyan Local Preacher, James Jeffery, conducted the first religious service in the shade of an iron bark tree at Golden Point a few weeks before Dr Backhaus arrived.)2

Among the many who moved into Bendigo district were the Clancys from "Allanvale". About the same time, their two daughters were setting out on their long journey from Ireland to rejoin them there.

They were not the only children left in Ireland by emigrating parents. For some years past, Caroline Chisholm had been interesting herself in the position of these children and took steps to re-unite a large number with their parents. She contacted the Governor, Sir George Gibbs, in February 1846, who in turn wrote to Mr Secretary Gladstone in July, stating that she had told him many children had been left behind because their parents "were unable to pay the sum of money, varying from £2 to £5, which prior to 7th June 1842, was demanded by parties calling themselves bounty agents for the passage of each child". He further indicated that in May he had issued a notice that parents may apply for the free passage of such children.

In February 1847, the Colonial Office replied stating that it was "happy to promote this humane project, although they feared It would be difficult to put in practise", because the children were scattered all over Ireland, and these children must go under the care of married couples. Undeterred, Caroline Chisholm brought children out on the Edward Parry, arriving on 21st January 1848, and other ships.3

Arrangements were completed between Thomas Clancy and the folk in Ireland for the migration of Catherine and Mary in 1852, but for some reason Thomas did not receive word of the ship they would sail on and the date of its departure.

It was the custom for the Postmaster in Melbourne to publish lists of letters lying at the Post Office, and once in a while the name "Thomas Clancy" appears. The name appeared in the Argus on 10th November 1848 (this could have been when he moved to Darebin Creek). Again, there were unclaimed letters for Thomas Clancy published on 9th June and 25th August 1852.4 One, or both of these letters, might have been from Ireland giving details about the imminent departure of the girls from Ireland. It is probable that they arrived about the time Thomas moved from "Allanvale" to Sheepwash Creek, which would be in the latter part of 1852, and this is why he had not received the letters.

Catherine and Mary Clancy embarked on the Peru, Captain J.C.F. Schutt, a ship of 714 tons, which left Cobh (then called Queenstown) on 14th September 1852. The ship was far from full, so at least passengers would not have suffered from cramped conditions, whatever other inconveniences they may have experienced. All the passengers were Irish. On board were the Fitzgeralds, the menfolk qualifying as "Gentlemen" and Helena as "Lady", also a 19 year old man named Thomas Barry. If they were in any way related, the girls might have been placed under their care; or they might have been in the care of the Allman family with their six children, William (aged 13 years) being the youngest. They also were "gentlefolk". The ages of Mary and Catherine when they embarked were 13 and 14 years. Some other families were Jacob and Eliza Barkman, Sam and Prudence Price and two children, John and Sophia Thompson and infant, John and Ellen Conty, Edward and Margaret Byrne, John and Mary Murphy, John and Mary Manly, Mary Baldwin with three children. Some of the young people on board were Maurice Fitzgibbon 17, William Fitzgibbon 18, James Carmichael 17, Dennis Long 17, David Brain 17, John Ahern 16, Richard Britt l8, Catherine Burton 13, Thomas Quirk 13, with whom the Clancy girls would have wiled away many an hour during the months of the sea-voyage.5

Sailing was still a risky business. Mr J. Ballingall gave evidence before the Victorian Legislative Council in 1852. "Almost every migrant ship was of defective construction, and therefore unsafe. Of forty migrant ships which sailed from the Port of Cork", he said, "nearly one-third were forced back because their bottoms were leaky." 6 We have no report on the seaworthiness of the Peru, but it successfully completed the journey and arrived at Melbourne on Christmas Day.

Frances Nation writes that there was no-one in Melbourne to meet the girls when they arrived. "The Captain, a kindly man, decided to keep them on board until he was ready to start on the return journey. He then left them with a reputable woman who kept a boarding house. She agreed to keep them until Thomas could be found, on condition that they helped with the work for their board and lodging. They had not been long there when a man, who came in for a meal, asked who they were. When told, he said that Mary looked very much like her mother. He had seen their parents not long ago near Bendigo, and was able to tell them how to get a message to Thomas."7

One can imagine their disappointment upon arrival not to find some member of the family present to meet them. Their memories of parents and brothers and sisters would be very dim, and, of course, there was a brother and sister whom they had not yet seen. Everything, and everyone, around them was strange. Melbourne had grown rapidly since Thomas and Anne had left it. With the discovery of gold, the population quickly increased. Ships from many places were filling the harbour, and discharging their human cargo into a town already over-crowded.

"All was hustle and bustle as ships dropped anchor in Hobson's Bay, or occasionally tacked way up the Yarra. Wiser heads set off on reconnaissance and returned with news that there was no accommodation, and prices were outrageous .... The first impressions of the colony was one of rudeness, cruelty and greed. Many passengers landed late in the day, with no food or shelter. Hundreds spent the night on the wharves among barrels."

By the end of 1853 the accommodation was solved after a fashion. The Government established two "Immigrant Homes", one a building in town, the other a group of shacks on the south side of the river. Later a much larger "home" was built at South Yarra to hold 750. The Government also aided the construction of the Wesleyan shelter and the Chisholm's' reception centre. In the following year more than 10,000 migrants were sheltered by these five institutions, but all this was inadequate."

In that one month, December 1852, 120 ships arrived in Port Phillip, bringing 12,000. Melbourne was a very expensive city in which to live. Rents were multiplied by five and ten; a four pound loaf of bread rose from 6d to 1s 4d for most of 1852, then to 2s late in the year, vegetables and dairy produce trebled in price. One observer wrote:

"A most unbounded spirit of avarice actuates all classes; nothing is considered disgraceful but want of money; the old world does not and never did contain such a city of sharp traders."8

Many others wrote in similar strain. Charles Thatcher, who arrived a month before the Clancy girls, and who shortly made his way to Bendigo to provide entertainment, vividly describes the foreshore and city:

"Some hulks anchored in the mud, or one or two served as butcher's shops to supply the shipping, one as a pub, another as a giant eating house. The shallow water floated a miscellaneous debris of buoys, drift spars, broken oars, ship blocks, dead eyes, passengers used up beds and pillows, dilapidated hen coops, empty brandy cases, broken bottles, and kegs awash with sea-water. In Bourke Street there were long lines of drays loaded for the trip into the country. The noise of the wheel, the shouts of the bullock drivers, the low mumble of the passing crowd, the drunken songs from the public houses, the din of the auction rooms, all added to the interminable clamour of the city."9

What a strange, even frightening world, for two young girls to find themselves landed in, relieved somewhat by a kindly sea-captain, and hospitable boarding house keeper, with their parents over 100 miles away oblivious of their presence in this strange, new world.

It is not known just what Thomas Clancy did when he first settled at the Sheepwash. Already some people in the area were farming and growing vegetables to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population in Bendigo. Jean Theodore de Ravin, born in the West Indies, of French parentage, arrived in Melbourne a month after the Clancy girls. After a short period looking for gold at Castlemaine, he took up six acres of land on Sheepwash Creek in November 1853, where he planted a vegetable garden, orchard, and, later; a vineyard. Another early arrival was John Hargreaves, who had walked from Sydney in 1852. Finding there was no milk to be had in Bendigo, he returned to Sydney, and bought some cows, which he drove overland to Emu Creek. He took the first milk from Mandurang to Bendigo in 1853.10

In due time, the Clancys received word that their daughters were in Melbourne. So Anne Clancy, and sons John and Thomas, went in two bullock drays to pick up the girls and get a load of supplies. It was now autumn, and according to the family tradition, the return journey took three months as winter had set in, and the loaded drays were often bogged in the muddy roads.

It was a journey of just on 100 miles, out past Flemington, and the neat fields and cottages on the outskirts of Melbourne. "Beyond "Tulip" Wright's rambling white public house the road branched, one being the Sydney road. The second track involved crossing Deep Creek at one of its worst stretches and the floods of 1851 had swept away the bridge, so diggers avoided it and followed a more westerly track. Deep Creek was crossed by a punt, then the road straggled across the Keilor Plains to Macedon 15 miles away. By the middle of 1852, it was littered with broken drays and the decaying carcasses of bullocks, and in 1853 it was little different. On ahead was Aitken's Gap, a special camping place. This was a rendezvous of bushrangers. Prudent people sought the protection of Gregory's Inn or the Bush Inn (near the site of the present Gisborne) by nightfall."

Next came the most notorious stretch of the road, the track through the Black Forest, with its tall, crowding ironbarks. There were many tracks through the swamps that winter, as men tried to find a new way of avoiding the bog-holes churned up by earlier vehicles. Beyond was Carlsruhe, where the Government Gold Escort had its chief station and barracks. Then the road dipped gently into Kyneton, in the centre of a good farming district, and becoming quite an important place. The street through Kyneton dropped down to the Campaspe River, which they crossed, then on to the Coliban River, and Malmsbury with its two-story weatherboard hotel which could put up 100 diggers overnight. The road then went on to Sawpit Gully with its sly grog shanties; here it divided; one going to Forest Creek, and the other on to Bendigo, which they took till they came to journey's end some miles short of Bendigo.

As Mary's descendants have the story, the Clancys slept under the stars, which the girls said they enjoyed, despite the weather. For them it was a new experience, but there would be occasions when the more experienced members suggested a more Prudent arrangement for sleeping, such as sharing the safety of an inn. 11 As they travelled there would be much to talk about, the girls telling of their years in Ireland, and mother and brothers telling them a great deal that was new about Victoria. The boys would mention that Black Forest was a haunt for bushrangers, and mention some of their desperate deeds. It was only a matter of a few weeks later, on 20th July 1853, that some bushrangers robbed a gold escort on a narrow part of the road just beyond the crossing place of the Campaspe River, getting away with £8,000 in gold.12

Whatever discomforts they endured along the way (and doubtless time softened the memory of some of them) Mary gave her family the impression that the two girls were enraptured with the journey. When they arrived at the Sheepwash all the family were together again, except for the one married member, Eleanor at Glenorchy, and even she might have made the effort to be there (bringing her baby "Kate" with her) to welcome her sisters.

By this time, the whole of the area in Bendigo, from Kangaroo Flat to White Hills, had been turned over and well worked for alluvial gold, and there was not much of Bendigo Creek left because of all the sludge that entered it. The township sprang up on land just beyond View Point. Merchants erected canvas tents, and raised their flag. The Chinese were pouring in to work over old fields, and even some of them had their own businesses. The Bendigo Bank opened in October 1853, displaying pistols and rifles on the walls to discourage raids by bushrangers. Hotels, the Shamrock and others, became places of entertainment, and Charles Thatcher was delighting Bendigonians with his songs spiced with plenty of allusions to local personalities.13

Bendigo's first Hospital was built in October 1853, filling a real need, for there was a great deal of illness. Many people suffered from malnutrition; typhoid and dysentery were rife. As Mrs Clancy observed, "it was no joke to get ill at the diggings". Medicines were often unobtainable, and most doctors charged exorbitant fees. A consultation at the doctor's tent cost at least 10/-, and a visit from the doctor involved a fee of from £1 to £10 according to the time and the travel entailed. And one could not always be sure of the doctor's credentials.

Like many others, the Clancys had learned to be resourceful and independent to a large extent of the need of doctors, and many other people. Anne made clothes for the family. She also made bread, soap and candles from tallow. She even made many of the medicines, and some of her recipes handed down from generation to generation worked amazing cures. One ointment, known as "Grandma's salve" still finds a place in Frances Nation's cupboard (Frances is a great-great-granddaughter). She reports that the recipe was always handed to the eldest of each family, and that person was expected to keep everyone else supplied. Vinegar, honey and oil cured a cough; flannel soaked in vinegar was wrapped around a sore throat overnight; and those with lumbago wore a red flannel next to the skin. Soap and sugar or hot bread poultices treated infected sores, drew out splinters or drew cores from boils and carbuncles. These were some of the remedies used in the Clancy home.14

An advertisement appeared in the Government Gazette (12th May 1854) to the effect that "suburban lots at Strathfieldsaye, and the junction of Sheepwash and Emu Creeks, about 8 miles south-east of Sandhurst, will be offered for sale at 11.00 am on Wednesday, 20th June, at Bendigo Royal Exchange, Sandhurst, at the upset price affixed. Deposit 10%." The upset price varied from £1:10:0 to £2:10:0 an acre. This was the first time land was sold in that area. Clancy attended the sale, so did Dr Backhaus and many others. Thomas succeeded in securing four lots - 7 acres 3 roods, 7 acres 2 roods 29 perches, 20 acres, and 20 acres - and he obtained title to the land on 16th November 1654. Thomas must have acquired further land, for the map for the parish of Strathfieldsaye shows larger holdings in his name. In Section XIII he has numbers 1, 4 and 5 totalling 245 acres 2 roods 16 perches. Dr Backhaus also purchased land in the area. Others who purchased land included Alexander Ritchie, James Devine, John Frawley, W. Wood and C.H. Read, whose properties were near his. In the area, quite a number of Irish and German people also had land.15

The Clancy Home at Strathfieldsaye

The Clancy Home at Strathfieldsaye
Three Clancy sisters (probably Mary, Catherine and Elenor)
and their father, Thomas.

Thomas Clancy's larger holding was traversed by Emu Creek just before it joins Axe Creek. Here he proceeded to build a cottage, a slab building with a low verandah running the length of the front of it. Just across the creek he planted an orchard. I visited the area in 1977. Nothing of the house remains but its approximate location can be determined by the beds of iris still growing through the grass, remains of the garden around the house. The remains of the orchard are to be found in seven gnarled mulberry trees still remaining.16

"More than half a million acres were sold in the eighteen months from June 1853. Clarke reported, "hundreds have fenced, built upon and cropped at Lockwood, Muckleford, Guildford, The Springs, and Strathfieldsaye. The area under cultivation increased from 55,000 acres in 1854 to 115,000 acres twelve months later. Yet Caroline Chisholm, on returning to Australia in November 1854, cried, "The lands must be unlocked'.""

Caroline Chisholm paid her first visit to Bendigo in October 1854, and she and others were to re-iterate that cry many times in the coming years as disappointed miners and migrants sought to obtain land, and pastoralists adopted various wiles to hang on to their large holdings.17

Another who settled in the Strathfieldsaye area, and established himself as a grocer, was Roger D'Ornay, who with his wife Hannah and children came from Queenstown, County Cork, in 1853. A close relationship developed between the Clancys and D'Ornays, possibly because of their common links with Cove. The D'Ornays knew the Barrys and Kirbys and many others, and Anne Clancy would welcome conversation with them because they were much more recent arrivals. The result of this association was that a son and daughter in one family married a daughter and son in the other.

John Joseph Clancy and Thomasina Maria D'Ornay were married at Strathfieldsaye (possibly in the D'Ornay home) on Sunday, 23rd July 1854, by Dr Backhaus, John being 22 years old and Thomasina 21. Birthplace of both was given as Queenstown (actually Cove at the date of their birth). The witnesses were Edmund Langley Hunt (probably a son of John T.U. Hunt, one of the first group to purchase land in that area), and Mary Nanno Clancy. Mary probably knew the D'Ornays in Queenstown. John gave his occupation as farmer, and no doubt he was working on the property at Emu Creek.18

Just before this marriage was celebrated, there was an upsurge of opposition in Bendigo to the presence of large communities of Chinese who had camps at Back Creek and in other localities. Opposition, stirred up by William Denovan, a schoolmaster, came to a head on 4th July. Commissioner J.A. Panton summoned Denovan to the Police Camp just before midnight, where Police Magistrate McLachlan (better known as "Bendigo Mac") demanded to know his intentions. Denovan said he had no intention of being involved in direct action next day, and so the day passed without incident.

On 7th September, the Governor and his wife, Sir Charles and Lady Lotham, arrived, escorted by crowds, many of them pulling the carriage after the horses had been removed, the bandsmen playing "See the Conquering Hero Comes" (the tune from Handel's "Judas Maccabaeus").

At this time there was much unrest on the Bendigo field concerning the license fee of 30/- per month which miners were required to pay. It began in 1853 when on 1st August, Bendigo miners petitioned Governor La Trobe to reduce the license fee to 10/-, for armed forces to leave the field, and for diggers to be given the vote. This was followed by a giant rally on 13th August, where 12,000 men strongly supported their leaders. Two weeks later many diggers offered only 10/- for their license and themselves for arrest. The Police reported Bendigo was in a state of revolution. The Government was powerless, and in an amending Act agreed to a tax of £2 for the remaining four months of the year, and reduced taxes thereafter.

The issue was raised with Sir Charles Hotham when he visited Bendigo, but he succeeded in quietening the miners for the time being. Grievances surfaced a little later when it was realised that nothing was being done to reduce or remove the fee, and this culminated in the battle at Eureka Stockade, Ballarat, on Sunday, 3rd November.19

Elections for the Legislative Council were held in October 1855, when the franchise had been liberalised. Thomas Clancy and his son John were eligible to vote, possibly for the first time. The voter was required to own £1,000 worth of property for the right to vote for Council, and pay a rental of £10 for the right to vote for the Assembly. The first Roll of Sandhurst electors was made up of 2,232 persons. That year a town council of seven members was appointed, and immediately set about carrying out a property assessment and making plans for a better water supply for the growing town.20


Four months after John married, Mary Nanno was married to Joseph Cooper Doran at Strathfieldsaye (this time probably in the Clancy home) on Tuesday, 26th November 1854, by Dr Backhaus, witnesses being Catherine Clancy and Phillip Kennedy. If Mary had a bridesmaid, it would have been natural for Catherine, with whom she had spent so many years in Ireland, to be that person as well as witness. Joseph Doran was 27 years of age, and Mary only 16 years old.21

Joseph Doran was born in Dublin, son of Thomas a millowner, and Hannah. He was reared in county Kerry, and had been sent to Rome to be trained for the priesthood. Deciding that this was not to be his destined role, he returned home. His parents, disappointed and embarrassed by his decision, decided to send him to the colonies. Soon after his arrival in Victoria, he resolved to try his luck in Bendigo.22

At the time of his marriage, Joseph was listed as a schoolmaster. Mrs Nation states that one morning at Mass in Bendigo, not long after Joseph's marriage, Dr Backhaus, worried by the illiteracy of the local children, asked if anyone in the congregation could teach the children to read and write. "Joseph applied for the position and was appointed as the first teacher of the first school in Bendigo."23

Mrs Nation is correct concerning Joseph Doran accepting Dr Backhaus' invitation to teach, but wrong regarding the time he began teaching there. It was before, not after, his marriage. As for being the first teacher, perhaps that honour should go to Dr Backhaus himself, who the previous year conducted a class in his tent-chapel.

Dr Backhaus wrote to the Denominational School Board on 5th August 1854, providing it with this report about his school:

"It is on the banks of the Bendigo, a quarter of a mile below Camp. There are nearly 500 children here, of whom nearly 300 are Catholics. By permission the School is held in the chapel-tent the furniture consists of a few boards laid on empty boxes to sit upon. The School has been in existence since May 23 last. Mr Doran has been teacher since June 27. He is both competent and efficient. He previously taught in Ireland since 1846. He receives the fees which are 1/6 a week. He all told will receive £100 per annum; I pay the deficiency. He has no house - I lent him a tent as a make-shift. The attendance of the children is very regular. During last month 32 attended each day; the attendance is increasing. The School receives no assistance. It is under my exclusive care."

At the beginning of the following year, Dr Backhaus started what he called "a permanent School with the teacher's residence attached". On November 20 he wrote:

"The schoolhouse (not finished) cost £443:12:6. Apparatus (poor enough) of desks, benches, maps, clocks, etc., has cost £35:1:0. The local receipts amount to £357:19:0. Other receipts since the opening of the school amount to a further £150."

The Rev A.E. Owens writes that "a girls school - separated by a partition from the boys' section - flourished from January 1855, and Mary Doran (January-March 1855), Catherine Broderick (July-December 1855), Mary F. Flannery (January 1856-March 1860) etc" were teachers. He also mentions that the first teacher (that is, Joseph Doran) was succeeded in October 1855 by Edward Ryan, who remained only five months, to be replaced by Thaddeus Murphy in April 1856. He was succeeded by William C. Tully in 1858. 24 Frances Nation wrote:

"It was conducted in a tent and Joseph and Mary lived in another tent behind the school. Some of the pupils were older than Mary. This embarrassed her, so she used to climb out through the tent window rather than go out through the School. One day, Dr Backhaus saw her and told her a married woman shouldn't behave like that. Joseph didn't teach at the Catholic School for long as the Education Department started a School in Bendigo and offered him a position. He worked there for twenty years until 1873."

As indicated above, Joseph ceased teaching at the Catholic School in October 1855 (after about 16 months service), but it would appear that he did not commence teaching in the National School straight away. In the 1859 Directory he was listed as a general produce merchant, residing in Lyttleton-Terrace. Later on he became a teacher in the National School, and the 1868 Directory lists him as a teacher, still living in Lyttleton-Terrace in a two-storey house.25

On 10th and 11th July 1865, he sat for an examination for the First Division of Competency as a Common Schools' candidate. His report is not a particularly good one, for he failed in some subjects and passed in others. Joseph was in Bendigo no later than October 1853, for in that month he was a sponsor at a baptism. Thereafter, he frequently acted in this capacity. No doubt being a teacher he was an available suitable person when a sponsor was required and the priest had many baptisms.26

By August 1854, when Dr Backhaus made his report, there were seven schools in Bendigo, five of them denominational - three Wesleyan, one Roman Catholic, one Presbyterian. The Church of England School started later that year. Enrolments were Wesleyan 110, Catholic 50, Presbyterian 34. The two National Schools, at View Point and White Hills, had 44 pupils. Only 15% of the children who should have been attending school were doing so.27

Joseph and Mary Doran had a large family, thirteen children in all, although a few did not live beyond infancy. Their first child, Thomas, was born on 1st February 1856, and baptised on 21st February, Thomas and Anne Clancy being sponsors.

The second child, Eleanor, was born on 12th November 1857, and baptised on 15th November, John Clancy and Eleanor Stewart being sponsors. The next eight children's baptisms (with the exception of Francis, the second child to bear that name) were recorded in the St. Kilian's Register, Bendigo. They were - Frances Therese, born 22nd December 1858, baptised 31st, sponsors Catherine Clancy and Edward O'Keefe; Francis (who only lived two years, dying of diphtheria, born 18th February 1861, baptised 10th March, sponsors Frances Doran (herself only three years only) and Mary D'Ornay (probably a sister of Thomasina); Hannah Georgina, born 25th March 1862, baptised two days later, sponsors being Thomas Dynan and Sarah Boyle (by this time the Clancys had moved away from Bendigo); Thomasina Agnes, born 21st September 1864, but not baptised till 2nd November, Agnes Clancy returning from Deniliquin to be a sponsor, the other was Joseph Stone. Thomasina died at the age of two years as a result of a fall down the stairs. The next child was called Francis, doubtless replacing the one who had died. His name is not in the Register and I nave no date of birth. He died in infancy. Eleanor also died young, which means that four of the first seven children died very young.

The remaining six children all reached adulthood. The eighth child was Frederick Joseph, born 30th March 1869, baptised 11th April, William D'Ornay (brother-in-law to the Dorans) and Jane Law being sponsors; then followed Mary Josephine, born 6th February 1871, baptised 16th February, brother and sister, Thomas and Frances, being sponsors. According to the St. Kilian Register, Richard Thomas was born on 18th January 1873, baptised 26th January, Catherine Stewart (cousin) and John Quealey being sponsors. According to family records, Richard was born in 1877 and Eleanor Alice was born in 1873. The remaining three children's baptisms are not entered in the St. Kilian's Register, and Joseph Doran moved from Bendigo to Runnymede, near Elmore, in 1873. Those children are Eleanor Alice (concerning whom I do not have a date of birth, other than the family mention of 1873); Arthur Rupert (born 1875) and Agnes Kate(born 1879). I do not know where their baptisms are recorded.28

We shall revert to the story of the Dorans, after they left Bendigo, later in this narrative.


Some time during 1856, John Clancy moved from Strathfieldsaye to Back Creek where he was employed as a butcher. Back Creek, between Bendigo and the Sheepwash, flowed into Bendigo Creek about where Lake Weerona now is. John and Thomasina were among their own kin, for there was a large Irish population in this area. And this meant a lot to them. As Frank Cusack writes:

"Probably no social influence was so pervasive in early Bendigo as that of the Irish and Cornish communities. Their deeply held religious convictions tended to colour local community affairs for decades."

It was on Back Creek, soon after the discovery of gold that Jimmy Tyson and his brother had opened a slaughter-yard, ranging as far afield as the Riverina for stock. It was a highly profitable business, and together with his other enterprises helped lay the foundation of his wealth. Thus with a slaughter-yard nearby there may have been a number of butcher shops in the vicinity, in one of which John worked.

Though some of the Irish had left this area, called Irishtown, before John arrived, many remained, and Dr Backhaus established a school there in 1856, as well as in a number of other centres, including Axe Creek. Richard and Geraldine may have attended School at Axe Creek. Previously, they would have been taught at home. Irishtown was near where Dr Backhaus built his tent-chapel, and later his first St. Kilian's Church. The School Inspector reported that early in 1858 Mrs Dwyer began a school in "a mere tent" at Back Creek, mostly a private school, and mainly for girls there being 43 on the roll. It had wooden sides and a canvas roof.29

Bishop Goold paid his first visit to Bendigo on 10th December 1855, and took up residence in the clergyman's tent. The Bishop noted that the place where Mass was being celebrated in Bendigo "at present in a miserable slab affair badly covered with canvas. It does not accommodate many. It has two good bells". Next day he rode 11 miles into the country, saw some good farms in the hands of Catholics, and noted that good water was abundant. He is not specific concerning the part of country he went into, but as Dr Backhaus had land at Strathfieldsaye, it could well have been into that area.

The following Sunday, 16th December, he celebrated Mass, when seventy persons were confirmed. Among that number might well have been Agnes and Richard Clancy, and even Geraldine. It is likely that Catherine and Mary were confirmed in Ireland. Then following a meeting, over which the Bishop Presided, to consider the erection of a Church.

Work started on the new Church in 1856 to replace the little slab building. Faulty workmanship led to it being demolished, and it was recommenced on Sunday, 25th January 1857, when Bishop Goold laid the Foundation Stone, and later he blessed the building. This Church, 130 feet by 40 feet, was completed in December, and dedicated to St. Kilian, the Irish Apostle to Baden and Bavaria. The scene of his martydom was not far from Paderborn, the native town of Dr Backhaus.30

Just prior to the re-commencement of the building of this sandstone Church, sadness came to the home of John Clancy. Thomasina gave birth to a baby girl on 25th November, and she was baptised Mary on 7th December, William Roger D'Ornay and Mary Nanno Doran being sponsors. Thomasina died on 17th December of puerperal fever (an ever-present risk in births in the nineteenth century) and was buried at Junction Cemetery the following day, the undertaker being Thomas Oakley, and Dr Backhaus performed the last rites. 31 Shortly afterwards the baby died. This was the first occasion bereavement was experienced by the Clancy family in Victoria.

The next reference to John Clancy is in the Electoral Roll for 1856, where he is listed as a hotel-keeper on Melbourne Road, which would be somewhere between View Point and Golden Square, or even a little further back towards Kangaroo Flat. The same Roll lists Thomas Clancy as a farmer living at Sheepwash Creek. 32 He was still living on his property at Emu Creek, "Sheepwash" being generally used for the area.

Bendigo was fast developing into a town with improved streets, and beginning to erect some imposing buildings. A Bendigo wit divided the 1850's into three periods. The first:

"was the old messy period of the tub and cradle, calico tents, hop beer, police magistrates, pickled onions, Gold Commissioners, sides of mutton, Coroners, and grilled chops. Next came the epoch of puddling machines, hay and corn sellers, Mining Boards, wardens, Cobb's coaches, shanties, restaurants, newspaper agents, and other nuisances. The third was the era of quartz mining, wooden houses, mining speculators, town councillors, railroads, Members of Parliament, Cabinet Ministers, auctioneers, Insolvent Courts, and other afflictions of an advancing civilisation."33

The next event in the story of the Clancys was the re-marriage of John. In 1855, there came from Scotland a widowed lady, Janet Rankin, and her seven children. Janet came to Bendigo, then moved to Kyneton for a short while, after which she returned to Bendigo. During their first period In Bendigo, her daughter Eliza and John Clancy met. Janet kept a boarding-house in Lyttleton-Terrace. Was John a boarder there after he was widowed, or did they meet at Church? Whatever the answer they got to know one another in 1857 and romance followed.

In 1858, the Rankins were on a farm at Kyneton, so it was in St. Mary's Church, Kyneton, that John and Eliza were married on 3rd June 1858 by the Rev. Horatio Geoghegan. John, listed as a butcher, was 27 years and Eliza 24 years. Witnesses were Thomas Gerald and Catherine Angela Clancy. Bridgegroom, bride and witnesses signed the Register by writing their full names, the bridegroom writing "John Joseph Clancy". He seldom used his second name. The priest was a cousin of the Rev. P.B. Geoghegan. He remained in Kyneton for many years, a much loved and respected person.34

One year later (on 4th June 1859) John and Eliza were blessed with the birth of a son, named Thomas after grandfather Clancy. Uncle Richard and grandmother Anne were sponsors at his baptism in St. Kilian's Church on 12th June.35

Thomas Clancy, Senior, decided to give up farming at Strathfieldsaye, and so he sold No I of Section 13 to William Wood for £1,000, and two days later No 5 of Section 13 to William Wood for £1,000. Wood's property was just north of Clancy's, with only the road separating them. Clancy's home was on No 1, which was a much smaller area of land than No 5. The parish map shows Clancy as owning No 4 and two smaller allotments, but I could not find any reference to the sale of these pieces of land.36

At a later date, C.H. Read, Clancy's neighbour on the western side, acquired all this property, and incorporated it into the property which he named "Somerset Park", after his home county in England. Read, together with de Ravin and a number of other people. established vineyards in Strathfieldsaye. On a rising part of the land, on what was No 4 of Section 13 of Clancy's property, Read built a fine brick two-storey home, which still exists in very good condition. Mr and Mrs Somerville are present owners, and the whole property has been well improved. It has a very large dam slightly south of the house.37

Before he sold the Strathfieldsaye property, Thomas acquired an allotment in Bendigo to which he took those members of the family who still lived with him. His health was not good. It is not known what Richard was doing, or what Catherine and Agnes were doing. The property Thomas acquired was one rood, being allotment 96 of Section A in the parish of Sandhurst, situated in Ironbark Gully, on the left hand side of Calder Highway, two blocks back from the Happy Valley Road. Thomas conveyed this property to his son, John, on 30th September 1859 for £205.38

When Thomas died later in the year, the Death Certificate states his occupation as "licensed victualler". This, together with the evidence from the Electoral Roll that John was a hotel-keeper, residing on Melbourne Road, would suggest that they had a hotel on this property. Probably Thomas did go into the hotel trade when he went into Bendigo, and at one stage John was associated with him in it. In this case, the daughters would assist in running the hotel. Thomas had been suffering from dyspepsia for the last three years of his life. In his latter days, he may not have been able to do much. Those days would be gladdened by the sight of grandson Thomas, the three Doran grandchildren, and the Stewart grandchildren who were brought over to Bendigo from time to time, the fourth one being born in Bendigo just before he died.

On 12th December 1859, Thomas died in Market-Square, Bendigo, at the comparatively early age of 51 years. Dr Robert Campbell Dow had attended him in his last days, and Robert Stewart was over from Glenorchy and attended to arrangements for the funeral which took place on 13th December, the interment being in a grave, now unmarked, in Junction Cemetery. Dr Backhaus, who had been so closely associated with the family, performed the last rites.39

It was sad for Anne to lose her partner after nearly thirty years of married life. They had shared many experiences, some difficult, in Ireland and Victoria. Leaving behind a splendid property in Ireland they adapted well to pioneering conditions in Victoria, and made some progress in material affairs. They gave all eight children a fair education - no mean achievement in those days. Beginning as a farmer in Ireland, he had many and varied occupations in his adopted land - farm employee, Superintendent of an Immigrant's Home, teacher, policeman, employee on a station, farmer, and finally, licensed victualler. There may have been other occupations, which I have not been able to discover. He did not occupy any public position', nor did he hold any position in the Church other than a faithful member. He and his wife brought up the whole family in devoted adherence to their church. He was proud of his Irish ancestry, proud of the place he once held among Irish gentry. On occasion, he contrasted his present situation in Victoria with the life he knew in Ireland, riding around on the Clancy property of "Copse".

There is no indication that he ever regretted his decision to emigrate, or ever hoped to make a trip back to Ireland, even though the presence there of two daughters for eleven years would have been a strong pull. A touch of pride is revealed in one incident which has been handed down. He was making a trip from Bendigo to Melbourne, and had been told by his wife to buy an overcoat. He brought back six, and when asked why, he replied, "A gentleman does not deal in ones". However, one suspects there were times prior to that time when he could do no more than deal in ones. He was a big man, and bearded. 40 Apart from the photograph of the group of Clancys at Strathfieldsaye, there is no known photograph of him, and nothing further is known about his appearance. Shortly after his death, Anne and some of the children moved to Deniliquin. Their story will be resumed in Chapter 6.


Joseph Doran taught in Bendigo till 1873, and then he moved north to Runnymede. A supplement to the Government Gazette, dated 1st January 1875, relates to teachers with the Department at that date. Concerning Joseph it states that he was appointed to the service on 1st July 1853. The Gazette then records that he was out of the service for 18 years 4 months and 20 days. This suggests that he began teaching almost immediately after he came to Bendigo, that he left teaching in a National School to teach in the School started by Dr Backhaus only a short time before he began teaching in that School, and that he did not resume teaching in a National School until during the year 1872.

At Runnymede, he was Head Teacher of Bonn State School No 1297 in February 1874. Conditions were primitive at this School, which originally opened (as Rural School No 16) early in 1870, under James Underwood as Head Teacher. "A dilapidated leased building, with no chimney or floor, and no glass in the windows." It failed to hold teachers or properly serve the district, and appears to have closed for a time - till re-opened with Doran as Head Teacher. He found it bare of equipment or furniture. Water had to be carried from the Campaspe River half a mile away.

In 1879 State School No 1297, Bonn, was closed. Its pupils together with those of State School No 1080, Bonn, were then accommodated in a newly built State School No 2191, Bonn, with Mr Doran as Head Teacher. State School No 1297, where he had taught for five years had an enrolment which rose as high as 40, with an average attendance of 26. Schooling was not compulsory, so some of the older pupils attended only when not working on farms. Joseph worried about this, and in order to meet the needs of these children, he sought from the Education Department, permission to conduct night classes. This was granted but the Department said his wages would remain at £2 a week. These older children, some being young men with beards, came for an hour's schooling, and then finished the night with a dance outside the School to the music of a concertina. Needless to say, this night School became very popular. This was a wooden "schoolhouse", with teacher's quarters of two rooms. Obviously this was not going to provide adequate accommodation for the Doran family, and it seems that the Doran's obtained a more adequate house in Runnymede.

His salary of £2 a week was insufficient to feed such a large family, so he and Mary took steps to supplement that income. He caught fish in the river and had a large vegetable garden. Mary boarded two other boys, and took in dressmaking. In this she was helped by her eldest daughter, Frances, who had left school.

Mr Blanchen, who provided some information concerning Joseph Doran's teaching career, mentioned that St. Martin's Catholic Church was built at Runnymede in 1874, and that his father was altar boy at the first service held that year. The Dorans were regular attendants. He also stated that the old Runnymede township (of which there is practically nothing left now but the Cemetery) was about 12 miles from Rochester, and Bonn was halfway between the two places. Runnymede died rapidly after the railway went through.

Joseph Doran left Bonn to open a new School at Watchem West, No 2485, on 11th November 1882. This was a wooden portable school with attached quarters of two rooms. By now some of the older children were no longer living with their parents, thus reducing pressure on accommodation a little. The average attendance at this school ranged from 14 to 17 in 1886, but this fell away, so that between April 1888 and August 1889, the school was worked part-time with the State School at Watchem South (Massey).41

Photo of Joseph C. Doran

Joseph C. Doran

Watchem West is near Donald in the northern Wimmera. Joseph retired from teaching in November 1890 and acquired a property at Watchupga. Until a house was built on the farm, he leased a nearby Inn, "Cavion", and ran it. Joseph named his property "Windyheights" at Woomelang, near Watchupga. There he died on 18th January 1898, aged 71 years.

In October 1895, the outlook was most discouraging for crops in the north and north-west of Victoria. West of Echuca there was "a lamentable picture of failure especially from Swan Hill through Wycheproof, Waitchie and Sea Lake where crops were an absolute failure".

Great heat was experienced in February 1897 with temperatures of 115 and 116 degrees in the north-west. So Joseph did not have a good start, weather-wise, as he entered upon his farming activities. This was the beginning of the run of dry years that affected much of western Victoria and western New South Wales. By February 1902, the country west of Echuca was in a "terrible state". Water was being carted for miles.42

Mary Doran continued to live at "Windyheights" until her death on 4th April 1921, at the advanced age of 84 years. By this time, the only Clancys of that generation still alive were Richard and Geraldine, the two born in Australia. Both Joseph and Mary Doran are buried at Birchip. The property "Windyheights" has remained in the Doran family; grandson Gordon Doran now works it.

 Photo of Mary Nanno Doran

Mary Nanno Doran

Mary corresponded regularly with her brothers and sisters, but apart from visits to Melbourne and other parts of Victoria, does not seem to have travelled to those who lived interstate. She retained a strong love for Ireland and this is indicated by the card she sent to her brother Tom for Christmas 1912, an Irish card, depicting the Irish jaunting cart in a village lane, this picture surrounded by a shamrock and harp, and containing a verse, "The Sweet Little Plant".

Seven of the Doran children married, and their descendants are numerous in Victoria. The two who did not marry were Arthur and Hannah Georgina. Arthur, an easy-going man, well-read, was a farmer at Watchupga, where he died in 1949 and he was buried at Birchip. Hannah lived in Berriwillock where for a time she had a fancy goods shop, and then about 1906 she became the first postmistress in a building next to the present post office. The first Postmaster was W.J. Camp in 1899 in Taverner Street. In 1921 Miss Doran was followed by Mr C. Ledwich after his return from the war. He was in charge for four years, after which she was postmistress again until the arrival of Mr L. Cadzow. Hannah died in 1941, aged 79 years.

Thomas, the eldest son, married Catherine Drake, and they had four children - Anne Eugene ("Nan"), Joseph Cooper, Frederick Francis ("Ted") and Dorothy. Thomas was an accountant. He died at Sandringham in 1932, aged 76 years.

Frances married John P. Ledwich. For a time he was in New South Wales at Wanganella and Booligal and had associations with the Clancys who went to those places. There will, therefore, be occasion to mention him again when we come to that part of the story. After-wards, he returned to Victoria, and went farming at Berriwillock. The mallee country was opened up in the Berriwillock area in 1890. All was titled Agricultural Lease, and the settler had forty years to pay for the land allotted. Almost everyone grew the early maturing variety of wheat named "Steinwedel" at first. Other varieties were planted later, such as Purple Straw, Major, Bencubbin, and others. Later, they switched to Federation and other strains of wheat grown from it.

Before the railway went through to Berriwillock from Wycheproof in 1895, the mail route was from Birchip to Marlbed Station 15 miles south of Berriwillock, then to Sutton where the main post office was situated at the home of John P. Ledwich. The mailman's next stop was at a branch office two miles south of Berriwillock, at the home of W.J. Camp, who took mail on to Berriwillock riding on horseback. It was due to the knowledge and technical ability of John Ledwich that in 1910 Berriwillock was foremost in installing party telephone communication in the north-west of Victoria.

The Ledwich's had a family of nine children - Thomas, Frederick, George (who received the Military Medal decoration in the First World War), Harry, Len, Francis, May, John and Dorothy. The last girl was adopted, a very fine act on the part of parents who already had a large family. Frances Nation, to whom reference has been made in this story, is a daughter of Frederick. The Ledwich family, like many others, battled through some difficult times on the land. There was a severe drought in 1914, when there was a complete failure of crops, followed by a very lean year in 1915. John Ledwich died in 1916, and Frances in 1938, aged 80 years.

Services of every denomination were held for a number of years in the Berriwillock Hall. "Every week Miss (Hannah) Doran would set up the Roman Catholic altar, using a foundation made of kerosene cases." For several years, Mass was celebrated by the parish priest from Watchem, 60 miles away, Father Barry being the first to visit in 1894. The Roman Catholic Church was built in 1903, Father Quinn being the first priest in charge. John Ledwich also took an active part in entertainments in the community. As well, he was a foundation member of the Rifle Club.43

Frederick Doran married Bernetto.., and they went to the goldfields at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. There Mrs Doran and her baby died, after which he returned in 1904 to Watchupga to become a storekeeper. His second wife was Catherine ("Kate") Kelly, and their children were Mary Agnes, Daniel and Joseph (twins), Catherine and Anastasia ("Letitia"). Both Frederick and "Kate" died at Woomelang, he in 1969.

Mary Josephine Doran married John Hoban, who was a farmer at Berriwillock. Their first child, Mary Catherine, became a nun (Sister Hilary), and died of cancer at Bendigo at the comparatively early age of 40 years. The second child, Anne Patricia ("Nance") is housekeeper at St. John's Presbytery, Mitcham. The third child, John Arthur, studied for the priesthood, but did not proceed to ordination. He married May Pearson, who has three brothers Franciscan priests. John, too, died of cancer, aged 45 years, leaving a widow with twelve children. John Hoban died in Bendigo in 1937, and Mary Josephine in 1939.

Eleanor Alice Doran married Charles Gordon, a farmer at Watchupga, in 1903. Her only child was still-born, and her life was despaired of for some weeks. Her mother lived only two miles away, and with her continued care, Eleanor ("Nellie") gradually regained strength. Later they adopted Veronica. Eleanor Gordon died in Bendigo in 1952 and Charles in the 1940's.

Richard Doran was also a farmer at Watchupga. He and his brothers also had land at Sea Lake, about 20 miles away, and their sister, Agnes, kept house for them at cropping and harvest time. Richard worked very hard, and cleared about 2,600 acres of land, "a stupendous effort" in the words of his son, Gordon. He gave a helping hand to many, and after his death the family found among his possessions letters from people expressing thanks for such help. A neighbour of another faith, said to Gordon after the funeral, "He was a good man", and that summed it up. Richard married Margaret Foley, and their children were - Gordon, Len, Mary Agnes, Eleanor ("Nell"), Majorie and Kevin. All but Gordon married, and Mary Agnes has a daughter, a nun in Ballarat. Richard died at Woomelang in 1948, and he and his wife are buried at Birchip.

Drawing Courtesy Mitchell Library, Sydney

Bendigo 1854

Courtesy Mitchell Library, Sydney

Agnes Kate Doran married John Hoare, a farmer, first at Sea Lake, and later at Trega, near Ouyen. They had ten children, four dying at a very early age. The six who reached adulthood are - Mary Josephine ("Mamie"), Eleanor "Nell" Richard, Agnes Kate ("Kit"), Winifred and John. All but Richard married and have children. A son of "Mamie" was ordained to the priesthood about three years ago. His name is Frank Sheehan. In their latter years, John and Agnes lived in Melbourne. He died in 1945, and she in 1948. Both are buried at Williamstown.44

Most of the Dorans were farmers, or married farmers, and lived in the northern Wimmera. In 1904, Mary Doran referred to the hard times they had experienced since going into that area in 1895. 45 But the Doran family came of good stock, who quietly and courageously faced the difficulties of those years of prolonged drought. A closely-knit family, many of their descendants are still in that area. None seem to have followed Joseph as teacher, but the deep religious faith of Joseph and Mary burns brightly in their descendants, and several have chosen to give themselves in full-time service of their Church.

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