5. Enter The Rankins

"Back in the early fifties,
Dim through the mist of years,
By the bush-grown strand of a wild, strange land,
We entered - the pioneers."

(Frank Hudson, "Pioneers")


One cannot tell the story of my particular branch of the Clancy family without introducing the Rankins, especially that group of them who came to Australia "back in the early fifties". They were Scottish people, and one of the more distant ancestors, Duncan Rankin, was the first person to lose his life at the massacre of Glencoe in 1692.1

The generation of Rankins prior to the group who emigrated to Australia were living in Inverness-Shire. At that time there was dire distress for many highland people. The community was divided - Roman Catholics and Protestants, supporters of the Stuarts and supporters of the monarchy, great lairds and numerous but impoverished crofters.

Roman Catholic supporters of the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Stuart, were defeated at Culloden in 1745. After Culloden came the great clearances.

"The highlands were driven with a sudden rapidity through a series of changes which had taken hundreds of years in England. The medieval cry "sheep devour men" was heard again the highland crofters were displaced in their thousands during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nineteenth century in favour of vast sheep-runs. The great highland clearances did not reach their height till after 1800."2

This is the setting for introducing my great-great-grandparents, Donald Rankin and Elizabeth (nee MacDonald or McDonnell). Elizabeth belonged to the proud warlike MacDonald branch, the McDonnells of Keppoch, being the second daughter of Angus, a great-grandson of Donald Gruamach McDonald, third son of John IV of Bohuntin.3

Donald and Elizabeth Rankin were living near Fort William, in Lochhaber, when their first-born, Ranald, was born in 1799. (There were quite a number of Rankins in Lochaber, their forebears having moved there from Glencoe.) A brother of his moved to Strontian in Argyllshire, where a daughter Margaret, was born in 1829. She died at Fort William in 1905.4 Donald and Elizabeth had four daughters, who all migrated to Victoria, and it would appear that there was at least one other, a son, who remained in Scotland. The daughters were Jane, born 1801; Janet, born at Glenelg in 1802; Christine, born 1825; and one other, whose name I have not been able to discover, but it could have been Flora.5

"Glenelg was a wild and beautiful estate on Loch Mourn It was sold in 1798, again in 1811, and again in 1824. In 1837 it was sold to John Baillie, a banker, and once a Member of Parliament for Bristol. At each sale, some tenants were moved. In 1849, 500 of them were helped to migrate to Canada by a grant of £2,000 from Baillie and £500 from the Destitution Board. Forty or fifty families had been unable to find room on the Liscard which took the Glenelg people to Quebec. They had sold most of what they possessed, and were living close to starvation on the edge of Loch Hourn. Many MacDonalds and Rankins were among the people who went to Canada, and many bearing these two names also came to Australia. Donald Rankin was a factor on the Glenelg estate when Janet was born.7

In the obituary of Rev. Ranald Rankin it was stated that he was left an orphan at an early age together with his sisters, and on him devolved the duty of watching over "his bereaved brothers and sisters". In compliance with his mother's dying wish, he became a Catholic, and the sisters soon after followed in his steps. This story is repeated by Rev. W. Ebsworth and Mary Hoban. 8 The inference is that Donald Rankin was not a Roman Catholic. The McDonnells were fiercely attached to this faith, which for long had been proscribed and for which many had suffered persecution, and it would appear that Elizabeth maintained it, although she may have been married to Donald according to the rites of the Presbyterian Church. Information given in that obituary must have come from one of the sisters. A further inference is that Donald predeceased Elizabeth. Unless there is an error in the age of Christina given in the Shipping list, Ranald would have been a man of 26 years of age, at least, rather than being very young when he was orphaned.

Other evidence suggests that they were not orphaned at an early age. A letter was written by Donald Rankin from Roe Lunachan on 4th October 1831 to Father D. Forbes at Elgin about his daughter, Christina, who was sent to School at Elgin in 1831, and boarded with the wife of a Corporal, William Hollenshead. She had sent word to her parents that she was not happy in that place. Donald asked Father Forbes to go and see Christina and inform her that her brother Archibald would call in a few days, pay her expenses, and bring her back home. He also asked Father Forbes to tell Christina that "her mother and all the family enjoys good health". 9 It is not absolutely certain that this Donald Rankin is the person we have been referring to. It is known that the same Christian names were used frequently, but it seems too much of a coincidence to suggest that there was another Donald, with another Christina, just at the right age to be sent away to School. If this Donald is our forebear, then we are introduced to another member of the family in the person of Archibald, and in view of the large gap of years between the births of the older sisters and Christina, there could easily have been other children, some probably dying young.

Ranald Rankin went to Spain where he entered the Scotch College at Valladolid to undertake theological studies. However, the warm climate adversely affected his health, and after four years he returned in 1822 to Scotland where the cooler climate restored health and strength. He entered the seminary at Lismore to pursue his studies. Lismore is an island between the Lynn of Lorne and the Lynn of Morven, at the wide entrance of Linuhe, about 8 miles north of Oban. Bishop John Chisholm acquired it in 1803 for a seminary. his brother, Bishop Aeneas Chisholm, was in charge after Bishop John Chisholm's death in 1814. In 1825 he was succeeded by Bishop Ranald MacDonald, kinsman of Ranald Rankin, and who ordained him.10

Ranald Rankin was appointed to Badenoch as his first Mission where he remained for nine years, then followed Moidart where he remained for nearly twenty years.

An interesting contemporary account of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, and of Ranald Rankin, appeared in the Catholic Penny Magazine (No 20, Saturday, June 28 1834), a Dublin weekly publication:

"Perhaps in no part where it once prevailed, is the Catholic religion more advancing than in the Western district, including the Highland of Scotland."

Then follows a listing of places, names of priests, and number of Catholics, e.g., Fort William, Rev. Charles MacKenzie 300, Moidart, Rev. R.M. MacDonald, Rev. A. MacDonald, Rev. Coil McColl 600, Badenoch, Rev. Ranald Rankin 300. After this listing the article continues:

"The Rev. Ranald Rankin, a Catholic clergyman of great learning, piety and zeal, is now preaching over the principal parts of Ireland, in order to remedy this evil, and to be enabled to erect a chapel at Badenoch, in Invershire (sic). The place in which the Catholics of this Mission have to meet in order to assist at the adorable Sacrifice, and to offer up their daily prayers to the Almighty, is a wretched hovel in ruins, incapable of defending them from the inclemency of the weather. The pastor has no other residence but what the families of his flock benevolently afford him. If there be one thing more than another, which calls for the active co-operation of Irishmen in a particular manner, in favour of the Rev. Mr Rankin, it is that he has, with considerable pains and talents compiled a prayer book (the first of its kind) in the Gaelic language, entitled "The Christian's Guide", published this year in Aberdeen, and not only circulated in the Highlands of Scotland, but also amongst Scottish and Irish families in America. It is a curious fact, that from the great affinity which the Gaelic has with the Irish language, many of the Highlands of Scotland can understand the latter; and there is reason to think, if sufficient pains were taken to point out the relative differences and agreements in both languages, that most of the aboriginal Irish and primitive Scotch could not only feel alike, but speak together on the wonderful works of God. To follow the example of Mr Rankin by publishing a prayer book suitable to the wants of the many thousands who know nothing but Irish, would be conferring an indescribable benefit on religion in Ireland."

Then follows a copy of a letter from the Rt. Rev. Dr Scott (he was at Glasgow and the Vicar Apostolic of the Western District of Scotland):

"The bearer, the Rev. Ranald Rankin, a most zealous Roman Catholic missionary in the Western District of Scotland, has my full permission to go to Ireland to make an appeal to the generosity and charity of the very liberal Catholics of that country, on behalf of his very poor flock, and also on behalf of some very poor Missions near him. The Roman Catholics in the Highland parts of Inverness-Shire, where Mr Rankin resides, have hitherto from various causes been deprived of chapels; for the huts in which the poor people assemble, cannot be called by the name of chapels. The Catholic inhabitants of that part of the country, though numerous, are wretchedly poor, and totally unable to provide places of worship for themselves. I beg leave, therefore, most earnestly to recommend to the charity and piety of the faithful, the laudable objects of Mr Rankin's mission to Ireland."

+ Andrew Scott,      

Apostolic of the Western District.

Glasgow, May 5, 1834

Ranald Rankin arrived in Dublin on 6th May 1834, and stayed with a Mr W.C Battersby at 5 Essex Bridge. From there he wrote to Rev. Charles Gordon mentioning that he was there "collecting some bawbees for the poor Badenoch Mission. I got off to a slow start, but for the last three days I got on in grand style." 11 The rest of his itinerary is not known, but if he did get into County Cork he might even have received a contribution from the Clancys of "Copse", and three year old John (who was to become related to him through marriage) might have seem him.

Shortly after Ranald Rankin moved to Moidart, the Inverness Courier reported the arrival of Dr Boyter at Fort William on 18th April 1838:

"The news of his arrival, like the fiery cross of old, soon spread through every glen of the district, and at an early hour on Monday, thousands of enterprising Gaels might be seen ranked around the Caledonian Hotel, anxious to quit the land of their forefathers and to go and possess the unbounded pastures of Australia While we regret that so many active men should feel it necessary to leave their own country, the Highlands will be considerably relieved of its overplus of population."12

Rankin encouraged many people to emigrate, and not a few whom he met later in Victoria were folk whom he had known in the Highlands. Writing to Father Angus McKenzie on 2nd October 1838, he said, "I am busy sending about 90 souls to Australia". 13 It was his habit to write against entries in the Marriage Register where and when these people migrated, e.g., "to America" or "to Australia". So he has "Australia" against the names of Archy MacDonald and Ann MacDonald. For the year 1852, he has the words "Port Phillip" against the names of many persons, e.g., Alexander McEachern and Flora MacDonald. Two of the couples against whom is the entry "Port Phillip 1852" were Donald MacDonald and Kitty MacDonald, and John McEachern and Catherine McKillaig. The first couple were married in 1844 and the second in 1849 by Rev. Ranald Rankin, and on both occasions one of the witnesses was Malcolm Kelly, whose address was given as Dorlin. Dorlin is between Morven and Oronsay. Malcolm was also sponsor for the baptism of John Mclsaac in 1847, and for others in 1847 and 1851: He was Ranald's nephew, and further reference will be made to him in this story. 14

While on the subject of marriages performed by Father Rankin, it is interesting to note that on 15th June 1852 he married Donald MacDonald and Kitty MacDonald in Glasgow, and the same month they sailed for Australia. Apparently they wanted their priest from Moidart to marry them on the eve of their departure.

His parish of Moidart was extensive, being fifty miles in diameter. He gained a reputation as a scholar, and translated several devotional works from the French into Gaelic. He also rendered the first, third and fourth books of Virgil into Gaelic.

Reporting the death of Miss Margaret Rankin (whom we have already mentioned), the Aberdeen newspaper added (and this was over forty years after Ranald's death):

"Father Rankin is still remembered on the West Coast for his gifts as a poet and preacher. His beautiful hymns, songs and witty sayings were familiar to her while her own recollections of Highland lore became more vivid as time advanced."15

Ranald also sympathised with the Stuart cause, although it had long been defeated. The Dundee Courier reported the Glenfinnan Demonstration held on the Centenary of the Rising in 1845. It mentioned that there was a large assembly of Highlanders who joined in the procession, followed by a banquet. The article mentioned that many of them were descendants of the adherents to the cause of Prince Charles. Among the names given of those present was that of Rev. R. Rankin (spelt Rankine). Nearly all present were Roman Catholics. At the banquet, they declared their loyalty to the Queen and Royal Family.16

The last wedding conducted by Father Rankin in Moidart was on 2nd November 1854. In the Baptismal Register, at the conclusion of entries of baptisms administered by Father Rankin, his successor, The Rev. Hugh Chisholm, wrote:17

"Rev. Ranald Rankin, ordained, came to Moidart in 1838. Left Moidart for Australia on the twenty-fifty of July 1855 amidst the tears and lamentations of an afflicted people".

Sufficient testimony to the regard in which he was held.


We turn now to note something about the Rankin sisters in Scotland. At some stage in her teens, Janet went from Glenelg to Greenock in Renfrewshire, a shipping port on the Clyde. She may have moved because of the lack of employment in the Highlands. "The Scottish industrial areas were filled up with Irish migrants as well as dispossessed Highland crofters."18

Another who moved south to Greenock was Duncan Rankin, who trained and qualified as an engineer, and probably worked in one of the ship-building yards. Nothing is known of Duncan's parentage, or whether he was in any way related to Janet. Duncan and Janet (who was then 17 years of age) were married in Greenock in 1819 by the Rev. John Gordon.19

At this time, there was much turbulence in Scotland, with plots and counter-plots for the reform of Parliament, and many workers were disaffected, particularly in the South-west. In the north, the Government's policy of "Clearances" sparked off riots and insurrection, which kept the troops busy. On Sunday, 2nd April 1820, Glasgow was very tense, and proclamations were posted the previous night in neighbouring towns and villages calling on the people to rise in arms. On Wednesday, 5th April, there was a "battle" at Bonnymuir; the rebels were defeated and taken to Stirling Castle. A rising at Stratharan was also suppressed. A rumour spread that people were being taken from Paisley Gaol to Greenock Gaol, and crowds quickly gathered. The prisoners were safely transferred, but soldiers tired on the crowd, which had got out of control, and three were killed and eight wounded.20

Duncan and Janet had seven children, and what is somewhat surprising is that the eldest was not born until about eleven years after they were married. There in no indication on Janet's Death Certificate of any other children, who might have been born earlier and died in early years. Their children were Donald (born 1831), called after grandfather; Eliza (1834), called after grandmother, for in some records the name given is Elizabeth; Alexander (1836), Mary Anne (1837); Lilias (1842); Augustina (1843) and Ronald (1849).

The Register of the parish Church of St. Mary's in Patrick Street, contain the record of only two baptisms of these children - Alexander, born 26th July 1835, and baptised the following day by Rev. Ranald Rankin, the sponsor being Alice (? the name is not clear) Rankin; and Mary Anne, born 3rd October 1837, and baptised on 1st November by Rev. Alexander Smith, the sponsor being Jane Smith. Father Rankin was conveniently on hand for the first of these two baptisms, and may have been visiting his sister. The sponsor, Alice (?) may have been a relative of Duncan's. It is surprising that the Register does not contain the names of the other children.21

Either just before, or not long after, the birth of Ronald, Duncan died. When the Census was taken in 1851, Janet was a widow, living at 10 Cartsburn Street and keeping a boarding house. At that time, her Son Donald was an apprentice cabinet maker, Eliza a domestic servant, and Alexander an errand boy, the next three were school children, and Ronald an infant. Hector McInnes, a sawyer, and William Fraser, a stone-mason, were lodgers. In addition, Janet had a five year old boy, Peter McKillip, as a visitor. Janet was entered on the census paper as a native of Strathglass, and so was William Fraser.22

Strathglass was owned by the Chisholm's, and as we shall see, Ranald Rankin knew Archibald Chisholm (husband of the famous Caroline) in their youth.

Jane Rankin married John Kelly and lived in Argyllshire for some years. We have noticed that Malcolm Kelly's address was given as Dorlin, so it seems that Jane and family were living not far from her brother, Ranald. The Kellys had three children, at least - Malcolm (1830), Eliza (1832) and Anne (1834). Eliza married Simon MacDonald, a policeman, son of Angus and Annie MacDonald. John Kelly died prior to Jane's emigration.23

Christina Rankin married a person named Rankin (Christian name is not known) and she had one child, born about 1849, who was named "Reynold" on the shipping list, the name being either Ranald or Ronald.

Four sisters were present at the funeral of Ranald Rankin, and elsewhere there is mention of four sisters in Victoria, but the fourth sister is not named. From examination of Registers of Marriages and Baptisms at Bendigo and Kyneton, I believe her name was Flora, married to a MacDonald. The strongest evidence is given in the record of the marriage of Marion MacDonald at St. Kilian's Church, Bendigo, on 24th February 1857 to Frederick Kleeman.24 She was the daughter of Peter MacDonald and Flora Rankine (the name is variously spelt in records as Rankin or Rankine). Marion was 24 years of age, born in Edinburgh. One of the witnesses was Eliza Rankin, first cousin, if Flora is the fourth Rankin sister. If so, she was probably younger than Janet, and she would have been in her late twenties when Marion was born. A Flora MacDonald was sponsor on three occasions when Rankin children were baptised. A Donald MacDonald was sponsor for three Rankin children. This Donald could have been the son of Flora. Amelia MacDonald is sponsor for the baptism of two children of John and Eliza Clancy. The earliest date is 1857, and all these baptisms were in Bendigo. Later, a Flora MacDonald was witness to a MacDonald wedding in Kyneton. Apart from Peter MacDonald being recorded as the father of Marion, there is no other mention of him. Could it be that Flora, like her three sisters, was a widow when she came to Australia?

Eliza told her children (and her daughters frequently repeated the fact) that through her grandmother they were linked with the famous Flora MacDonald who befriended Prince Charles. The Rev. W. Ebsworth lends support, for he writes, concerning Ranald Rankin, "His mother was a cousin of the famous Flora MacDonald. It is hard to see how this can be, for the McDonnells of Keppoch were a different branch of the MacDonald clan from that of the Flora MacDonald.25

Jane Kelly was the first of the Rankins to emigrate. She, her three children, and her son-in-law, Simon, embarked on the Stebonheath which sailed from Plymouth at 4.0 p.m. on 9th September 1851. Like other emigrants, she would have obtained information about Australia from available literature, such as "The Imigrant's Guide to Australia in the Eighteen-Fifties", a pocket-size volume, giving information about the country, working conditions, wages, progress, what type of people were wanted, and what to bring with them for the journey and for the new land. This particular book, published in 1852, told of the influx of immigrants due to the discovery of gold, and "society is unhinged and excited, business deranged". 26 Jane would not have read that particular book, nor would she have known of the discovery of gold, which only occurred about the time she embarked, but other literature was available.

But the other Rankins, who followed later, would have received this kind of information, and much more. One by one, they made their arrangements to come to Australia. Probably their brother Ranald encouraged them, as he did others. The Rev. P.J. Geoghegan, on a visit to the old country, reported to Bishop Goold that one new recruit was likely to be Father R. Rankin, who was well-known to Mr McKillop of Melbourne, and also to Captain Chisholm. He said that Father Rankin was well-known as "the Apostle of the Highlands". However, Ranald was not free to emigrate at that time. In 1852 Caroline Chisholm visited Scotland, and held meetings in Glasgow and elsewhere. He encouraged her in her work.27

John Sergeant was master of the Stebonheath and John Kidd doctor. There were 294 on board, and during the journey there were eight deaths and three births. On board were a family named MacDonald, also Ronald Rankin, son of Peter and Anne. The ship arrived in Melbourne at 11.00 a.m. on 16th December 1851. Jane and family were admitted to the Immigration Depot on 17th December, and Jane was employed by William Campbell on the 18th, Anne by Mr W. Fowler of Russell Street at £18 for six months, plus rations. It is not known how long they stayed in Melbourne, but before long they were living at Lyneton.28

Janet Rankin and family made their way from Greenock to Liverpool, where on 5th November 1853 they embarked on the Boomerang and sailed for Port Phillip. Also on board was William Rankin, his wife and two daughters, bound for Geelong. He was an agricultural labourer from Lanarkshire, and a Presbyterian. During the journey there were ten deaths, some of the causes being debility, decline, pneumonia and fever.

Only a handful of wealthy passengers travelled in cabins on migrant ships in the 1850's. Steerage passengers slept between decks in a long room traversing almost the length of the ship. This was divided into three large compartments. In the after part lived the single women with a strong matron to discipline them. A large bulkhead or wall separated them from the married couples and Children in the centre of the ship. The single men went forward, behind another bulkhead. Within each of the three areas, the floor space was divided into berths, generally six feet by six feet, and four people slept in each berth. These berths were separated by a partition of wood, which being only one foot high gave no privacy. Each man and woman was given ten and a half pounds of bulky food per week, of which 5 lbs was oatmeal, the remainder rice, flour, bread or ship's biscuits; 14 lbs sugar, 2 oz tea, 4 lb molasses. Children had half rations. On most of the Australian ships, passengers got more than the official dietary meals, and had meat at midday. Steerage passengers formed themselves into messes of ten, one of whom went to the cook's galley to receive the allowance, and apportioned it. The passengers sat on deckboards. After meals they washed plates, quartpot and cutlery.29

As travel went, the Boomerang had a fast, straight-forward trip, making the journey in 78 days (the usual time was from 100 to 128 days), and arrived in Melbourne on 22nd January 1854. Most passengers would have experienced sea-sickness in the initial stages of the journey, perhaps with some rough sailing in the Bay of Biscay, but apparently they were fortunate not to have been becalmed in the tropics, nor could they have encountered much in the way of storms in the southern ocean.

The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool Courtesy NSW  State Library

The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool

(Courtesy NSW State Library)

It would appear that the Rankins spent some time in Melbourne for Eliza was engaged by C. Woodward, Napier Street, Collingwood, as a domestic servant for£30 per annum, and Mary Anne by A. Robinson, Bourke Street, Melbourne, as a domestic servant for £20, in each case the term of employment being for one month. Donald was listed as coming on his own account, and his mother being in his care. 30 Doubtless he found employment, and a home for his mother in Melbourne for a time. Apart from the fact that Donald was sponsor at a baptism in Bendigo in 1857 nothing further is known of him. As for the rest, mention will be made of them again living in the Bendigo and Kyneton districts. Janet and family did not stay long in Melbourne, and by 1855 she had moved to Bendigo, where she acquired a home in Lyttleton-Terrace.

Many Gaelic-speaking people in Victoria greatly desired a priest who could minister to them in that language, for most of the priests they met were Irish. In 1852, these Highland Scots sent a petition to Bishop Murdock of Glasgow to have Father Rankin come to Victoria to minister to them. There was some delay in granting this petition, so a further petition was sent to Rome for his release from his present duties so that he could come to Victoria. Caroline Chisholm, who had met up with him on her tour of Scotland, and who was by now back in Melbourne, joined the Highlanders in their petition. This was granted, and before long he and his widowed sister, Christina, and her son were preparing to emigrate.31

Caroline Chisholm was not long back in Australia before she saw a need which she immediately set about rectifying. The large number or people making their way to the diggings had little or no decent accommodation at a reasonable price in which they could stay on the journey. She set about building a number of huts along the way, which were erected during 1854 and 1855.32

The ship on which Ranald Rankin sailed was the James Baines , one of the famous line of clipper ships which was to speed up the journey and transform shipping in the 1850's. Mr James Baines got an American ship-builder, Donald MacKay, to build four big clippers -the Lightning, the James Baines, the Champion of the Sea, and the Donald MacKay. They were full-rigged ships, and when the full fine weather suit was set, it amounted to approximately 15,000 yards (or two acres). The BJames Dames was launched on 25th July 1854. Sailing on December 9, 1854, she made the passage from Liverpool to Melbourne in 63 days, an unbeatable sailing record, and the return journey in 69 and a half days, thus completing the voyage to Melbourne and back in the record time of 133 days. The vessel could carry 1,200 passengers. In 1857, it was chartered to carry soldiers to India at the time of the Indian mutiny. Queen Victoria had dinner on board with the soldiers, using a regulation plate and pannikin. The ship ended her days shortly afterwards when she was burned at Liverpool on her arrival there from Australia.33

In St. Patrick's Cathedral Archives, Melbourne, is a note from Father Rankin:

Argyllshire, Scotland

30th May 1855

I acknowledge having received this day an order on the Commercial Bank of London for £115:10:0 from Rev. Thomas Heptonstall, the Convent, Stanbrook, Worcester, being the sum intended to defray my passage to Melbourne.

Ranald Rankin,
M.Ap. Moidart."34

Rankin, his sister, and six year old son, Reynold, embarked on the James Dames at Liverpool and sailed on 4th August 1855. There were only 380 adults on board, some for Hobart and Sydney, but the greater number disembarked at Melbourne. Mrs Betty Shaw of Little River, where later Rankin was priest, told me her grandmother, Catherine McMaster, then aged 12 years, was one of the passengers in this ship. They arrived in Melbourne on 23rd October, and, the Bishop being absent, Rankin called on Rev. P.B. Geoghegan.35

On 26th October, Ranald wrote to the Vicar-General, mentioning, among other matters:

"I have an opportunity of going gratis to Kyneton, along with Mrs Captain Chisholm and son. My youngest sister and little nephew came along with me. I have a sister and family at Kyneton and another sister and family at Bendigo. Some of my former hearers reside at Kyneton, and also my friend, Captain Chisholm. The trip will enable me to find out some of the scattered Highland tribe.36

Caroline Chisholm, together with the Rankins, saw her sheds being built, as she made her way to Kyneton. On 3rd November, she placed an advertisement in the Argus: "Shelter sheds, shilling tickets, enabling holder to a night's shelter on the line of road to Castlemaine are now on sale", etc. Everywhere Ranald went he had the joy of meeting relatives, former parishioners from Badenoch and Moidart, and Archy Chisholm with whom he spent much time reminiscing in Gaelic.37

After spending a short time as assistant in Geelong, Rankin left for Portland on 13th May 1856. By June he was in Hamilton, whence he wrote to the Very Rev. Dean Fitzpatrick, V.G., St. Francis, Melbourne, saying that he had performed a few baptisms and a marriage in Geelong. In Hamilton he had board in a good Catholic home near the chapel, but he was dismayed with the few Catholics in the district and the poor Catholicity of some of them.

"The Lord of mercy crowns my humble exertions with great success. I have had two converts and expect more by and by ..... I enjoy better health than in town. I am getting young and strong again."

His first Mass was celebrated in a tent on a block of ground nearly opposite the present Town Hall.

He wrote again on 4th October:

"I find great difficulty in procuring a proper place of residence in this muddy township. Till now I was obliged to put up with very indifferent accommodation. I avoided renting a house because the rents are so high."

He proceeded to tell the Dean that a quantity of stone was available near the site of the chapel for a reasonable sum, and requested permission to purchase it, offering to collect money for the purpose, and ending:

"Owing to P.W. Nolan selling off everything (he had mentioned that Nolan was going to Sydney), I am obliged to look for a new house this day - the house where I lodged belonged to him."

The Dean attached a note to the letter, indicating that permission was given for the erecting of the chapel, providing it did not involve the mission in any debt.38

Rankin was at Ballarat from November 1856 to February 1857. After brief periods at Keilor and St. Francis, Melbourne, he was appointed first (and only) resident priest at Little River, between Melbourne and Geelong. His mission extended back to Werribee and Footscray, and included a number of other centres. He opened a school at Little River on 5th April 1858, and another at Steiglitz. He built a house at Little River, the site of which Mrs Betty Shaw has located. He was responsible for building a church in 1857, a fine stone building. This was replaced by the present church in 1922, but the original foundation stone is set in the gable above the porch.39

Ranald ministered there with great zeal, despite failing health, until his death. His sister, Christina, lived with him, and kept home for him. During the last eighteen months, his health gradually failed, and on Saturday, 14th February, he died in the arms of his sister. During the whole of Sunday, inhabitants of Little River thronged to take a last look at the one who had served them so faithfully.

Roman Catholic Church, Little River

Roman Catholic Church Little River

Early Monday morning, his body was taken to Geelong by the majority of the parishioners, and met at the entrance of St. Mary's Church by the Rev. Mr Hoyne. His biretta and stole were placed on the coffin. At 11.00 a.m., a Solemn Requiem High Mass was celebrated by Dean Hayes, assisted by Father O'Dwyer. At 2.00 p.m., the cortege formed in the church ground. Eight priests preceded the hearse, then followed the mourning coaches in which were the four sisters of Father Rankin, his nephews and other relatives. About 400 mourners followed on foot, and 60 vehicles, in which were most of the leading townsmen, brought up the rear. A number of women and children, not forming part of the cortege, walked along the side of the hearse. At East Geelong Cemetery, the coffin was carried by Little River parishioners to the Mortuary Chapel, and the body was lowered into a grave near where Father O'Brien was buried. Today eighteen graves of priests form a semi-circle around the chapel.40


The first land was sold in Kyneton, named by Mrs Jeffreys after her birthplace in Warwickshire, in December 1851. The following year it had post office, hotels and other buildings, and a population of about 300. Churches and a Catholic School were built in 1853. concerning these, the "Blue Book" for 1855 says:

"Kyneton, Rev. N. Stack ...... has a parsonage, two churches, both held in schoolhouses - the one at Kyneton, will accommodate 200, and that number usually attends the other at Taradale ...... 41

Jane Kelly and her children settled in Kyneton about 1853. Soon after Caroline Chisholm, accompanied by Father Rankin, arrived there in 1855, the Chisholm's bought the well-established store of Roger and Harper, at the eastern end of the town. At that time, Kyneton was divided into two commercial sections, one at the eastern end, and the other about a mile west on the banks of the Campaspe River. In the course of time, the main business area grew up between the two locations. The Chisholm boys settled in Kyneton, the father dividing his time between Kyneton and Melbourne, where they still kept a business for a time. The Kyneton store in High Street was near where there is now a small park in memory of Mrs Chisholm. From that store she was able to watch over her project of developing shelter sheds at suitable places.

Mrs Chisholm took up a new cause, and became a recognised voice in the "Unlock the Lands" agitation which was sweeping Victoria, as migrants and unsuccessful diggers sought to have large holdings cut up for selection. In 1856, young Archie Chisholm was asked by many local residents, including Malcolm Kelly, Peter Weltie and some Rankins, to nominate for Parliament. He stood on a programme of cutting up large holdings in a wealthy squatting electorate, but was beaten by G.W. Johnson.

Malcolm Kelly had a blacksmith's shop in East Kyneton. By 1857, there was a National School, a Court House, hospital and gasworks for street lighting had been installed. Mrs Ann C. Clinton, who had been with Mrs Chisholm was head-mistress of St. Mary's Seminary, where the Chisholm, and possibly Rankin, children were pupils. Cobb's coach, drawn by 22 horses, with seats for 75 plus standing room (the world's largest coach) passed through the town. In the spring of 1857, Caroline Chisholm settled in her new home, and soon made friends with her neighbours, including the Kellys, with whom she delighted to talk about Scotland. 42

The first function to bring together the various members of the Rankin families was the wedding of Anne Kelly and Peter Weltie on 7th January 1858. Peter was born in Baden, Germany, and had a brother a bishop there. He was a watchmaker, 34 years of age, and Anne was 22. She signed the Register with a mark, indicating her lack of ability to sign her name. The celebrant was Rev. Horation Geoghegan, the witnesses being Ronald Rankin and Joanna Gillies. The Chisholms were guests, and daughters Carrie and Monica were bridesmaids. At the wedding breakfast, Mrs Chisholm made a long speech, and drew the Major's sword across the wedding cake. The bride was taken to the church in Caroline Chisholm's vehicle, driven by a Chisholm.

Joanna daughter of Archibald and Anne McDonnell, was married to John Gillies 16 months earlier at Kyneton. When their first child, born, 1st February 1857, was baptised, the sponsors were Alexander MacDonald and Jane Kelly. This suggests a relationship between the Kellys and McDonnells, possibly through Jane's mother, Elizabeth McDonnell.

The close ties between the Kelly (and other Rankins) and the Chisholms were maintained. Years later, the Welties' daughter, Anne, related: "One day my father asked who had designed the Government's coat-of-arms. "Madame Chisholm", he answered himself."43 That daughter was born on 20th November 1858, and baptised Anne Maria on 1st December, the sponsors being Malcolm Kelly and Augusta (it should be Augustina) Rankin. Some years later, Peter Weltie was a watchmaker at Wentworth in New South Wales. A little further up the Darling River, one of the Rankins had settled.44

It is not known whether Simon and Eliza MacDonald (Eliza was Jane's daughter) also settled in Kyneton, but no great interval elapsed before he was a policeman stationed in Bendigo. There a baby was born to them on 15th April 1857 and baptised on 10th May, the sponsors being Donald Rankin (Janet's son) and Christina Rankin (Janet's sister). It is not known whether this child, Jane, was their first-born, or whether other children were born prior to her birth.45

Malcolm Kelly married Sarah Stokes, and their children were - Jane (born 8th December 1860), John Ronald (23rd June 1868), Nary Anne (27th November 1870) and James (30th March 1873). These names appear in the Registers, the first three being baptised at Kyneton with MacDonalds and MacPhersons as sponsors. The fourth child was baptised in Bendigo twelve months after his birth, Jane Kelly being a sponsor. Jane was probably their oldest child, but if Jane was the mother she would then have been 73 years of age. Michael and family may have moved to Bendigo.46


Meanwhile, Janet Rankin and family, after having settled in Bendigo for a short time, began farming at Kyneton, the date of the move not being known. Mary Anne was sponsor for the baptism of a MacDonald baby on 22nd May 1856, and Eliza was sponsor for the baptisim of a Brennan baby on 25th October 1857, both baptisms being in Bendigo.47

On 1st June 1858, the Kyneton observer reported that the streets were lit the previous evening with gaslight for the first time. It also reported that Sandhurst had its heaviest flood for two years, when the whole reserve between Camp Hill and Pall Mall was a vast lake. The road was impassable and Cobb's coach had not arrived.48 But though the road was bad, a group, the Clancy family, arrived in Kyneton. Two days later, as we have already noticed, John Clancy and Eliza Rankin were married in Kyneton.49

The Rankin family did not long remain in Kyneton. Janet resumed her position as boarding-housekeeper in Bendigo. The girls must have had close contacts with a number of families, for Mary Anne and Lilias were sponsors at several baptisms, Lilias with Archibald MacDonald being sponsors for the baptism of Jane Kelly in Kyneton on 8th November 1860. There was much matrimonial activity in Janet Rankin's family in the latter part of 1863 and early 1864, for in the space of three months, three children were married. The first was Alexander. In 1856-57 he was a miner at Epsom, just north of Bendigo. He may have left mining to assist on the farm at Kyneton. When they gave up farming, there was need for him to find other employment. At the time of his marriage, he was an overseer living at Euston, New South Wales. He was 26 years of age, and his bride, Ellen Therese Mitchell, a housekeeper at Euston (probably on the same property), was 24 years of age. She was born in Limerick, Ireland, the daughter of John Mitchell and Margaret (nee Kelly), and she arrived in Australia in 1859. They were married in St. Kilian's Church, Bendigo, on 8th October 1863, the Rev. A.E. O'Dwyer officiating, and John Scott and Mary Anne Rankin were witnesses.

No doubt Janet would have had most of the work in connection with that wedding because Ellen's parents were not there. There quickly followed preparations for the weddings of two of Janet's daughters, the first being Lilias, then 21 years old. The bridegroom was John Cramsie, aged 31 years, a storekeeper in Balranald. Probably he visited Bendigo on business, and may have stayed at Janet's boarding-house, and thus met Lilias. He was born in Belfast, Ireland, and came to Australia in 1858. They were married on 26th November 1863, the Rev. A.E. O'Dwyer officiating, and Augustina Rankin and William Tipper were witnesses.

Those two witnesses were bride and groom on 21st January 1864. William Tipper, aged 38 years, was a storekeeper, son of Thomas Tipper, merchant, and Maria. Augustina was 23 years of age, and at that time she was a barmaid. Re. A.E. O'Dwyer married them, and witnesses were John Cooney and John Tipper.

There remained one single daughter, Mary Anne (or Marianne), and she was married to Augustus Armstrong, aged 32 years, on 10th June 1871. He was a quartz-miner, born in Durham, England, where his father was a miner. Mary Anne was aged 30 years at the time of her marriage.50

I have not been able to discover information about the marriage of Janet's sons, Donald and Ronald. A Ronald Rankin (different person) was married at Kyneton in 1861. As the sponsors were Huntley McDonnell, who was born at Moidart, Scotland, and Christina Rankin, this Ronald Rankin was probably a relative to Janet. 51 A fifteen months old baby, Flora Macdonald Rankin, daughter of Donald Rankin, was buried in Bendigo Cemetery in the l860's. It is not known whether this Donald Rankin was Janet's son.52

William and Augustina Tipper had four children - Maria (born 31st October 1864), Thomas Perrin (28th September 1866), Jessie (29th July 1868), and William (10th July 1870). Augustina died on 28th February 1872, aged 31 years, leaving four young children to be cared for, and not many years later William died.

A son, Duncan William, was born to Augustus and Mary Anne Armstrong on 5th March 1874, one of the sponsors at the baptism being Jessie Rankin. Janet had two names, but did not use the name Jessie very often, although quite a few descendants have been given that name. Augustus and Mary Anne Armstrong are buried in Bendigo Cemetery, but the headstone does not give the dates of deaths.53

Alexander and Ellen Rankin settled in New South Wales after their marriage, and before long he acquired Pooncarie station and allotments in the village of Pooncarie, on the lower Darling River. Descendants still own property there. They had five children - Duncan, Stephen, Mary, Jessie and Ronald Alexander. Ellen died at Pooncarie on 9th September 1871, three months after Ronald was born, the death certificate stating that she "died of cold after childbirth". The four elder children contracted diphtheria and died in one week. Alexander continued to live at Pooncarie, and at the close of the century, he was listed on the Electoral Roll as "storekeeper".54

Ronald went to Bendigo as a lad (possibly to his grandmother's place), where he was educated. In the year of his birth, the firm, in which he was later to play a prominent part, was formed by Hugh McColl, the pioneer irrigationist of Victoria. Eventually, this firm of accountants was McColl, Rankin and Stanistreet. On 28th February 1946, Ronald Rankin completed fifty years with the firm and retired, and died on 13th June 1946, aged 75 years. He was a big man, proud of his Scottish ancestry, and was known to appear in kilts at some Scottish sports days in Bendigo. He was associated with mining, pastoral and farming industries in an executive capacity. He also served on a number of public bodies. He represented Bendigo on the Chamber of Mines of Victoria, and for some years was its Vice-President. He was also President of the School of Mines Council, Honorary Secretary of the Bendigo Benevolent Home for 15 years. On the formation of the Victorian Charities Board, he was appointed Government nominee representing country charities in 1923. When he became President, he was looked upon as one of its best administrators. He was President of the Bendigo Branch of the Sailors' and Soldiers' Fathers Association, and also served on a number of other organisations.55

He married Jessie Blackwood (surname not known to me), and they had four children - Ronald Alistair (killed in the First World War), Robert Allan (who did not marry), Marion Mitchell (married Gerald Yuncken), and Moira. According to Miss Moira Rankin, Donald Rankin's wife died in childbirth, but I have not been able to obtain further information concerning him.


John and Lilias Cramsie had eight children - William Augustine (born 22nd October 1864, baptised 1st November, Flora MacDonald being a sponsor); Jessie (born 30th November 1866, Donald and Flora MacDonald being sponsors at his baptism on 15th January 1867); James (born 22nd August 1869, baptised 13th September, Malcolm Kelly and Mary Anne Rankin sponsors); and Lilias May (born 5th October 1874, baptised on 7th December, Jessie Rankin sponsor). These four baptisms took place in Bendigo, the parents returning from Balranald for them. The next four children's baptisms occurred elsewhere. The children were John Boyd (born 1871), Alexander S. (1875), Charles H.W. (1876), and Reginald C. (1882).56

John Cramsie developed extensive business interests along the Hurray, Murrumbidgee and Darling Rivers. He entered into partnership with John C. Bowden, and later with a third man named Woodfall. The three had businesses at Wilcannia, Milparinka and Tibboburra. The last named partnership dissolved in 1883, Woodfall taking over the businesses on the Darling and beyond. The firm had fourteen boats and barges plying the inland rivers, taking goods to towns along them, and returning with wool and other produce to inland ports like Echuca, whence it was transhipped by rail to Melbourne.

John Cramsie lived in Melbourne for a time, where three sons attended Queen's College. He represented the Balranald Electorate (as one of two members) in the New South Wales State Parliament, for three terms, 1880-1887. At this stage he moved to Sydney, and lived at Ashfield, where his wife, Lilias, died at 46 years of age, on 12th June 1888. John Cramsie later lived Mosman and Rose Bay, and died in 1910, aged 78 years.57

John Cramsie also had properties in western and north-western New South Wales, one named "Glendon" in the Glen Innes district. William and Alexander managed these properties. William became an accountant in Glen Innes, and took an interest in public affairs, "having established a record unequalled in municipal and shire government in New South Wales"58. He was the Mayor for seven years. He was the President of the local Hospital Board, President of the Pastoral and Agricultural Association, and Director of several companies. He married Margaret C. McCrae, and they had five children. James Cramsie married M. Ester Fitzgerald, and they had five children. Jessie married Robert D. Wallace, and they lived in the Singleton district. Charles married Beatrice Everingham, a stock and station agent at Narrabri, and they had seven children. 59 Reginald married Hadie McDonald, and they had five children.

John Boyd Cramsie had an outstanding career, and was numbered by the Sydney Tatler as one of Australia's big men. Educated at Queen's College, at 16 years of age he went to "Glendon" station. At 18 he became Overseer of Strathdarr station, 500 miles west of Rockhampton, Queensland, where he remained five years, during which time he travelled widely. He left to take the more responsible post of general manager of the Longreach Meat, Extract and Boiling Down and Wool Scouring Company at Clear Lagoon, Longreach. He controlled this company for six years till the 1902 drought. Due to overwork and continued worries, his eyesight began to fail. Acting on medical advice, he left Queensland, and formed the business of Comerford, Cramsie and Co., stock and station agents at Moree, from which he retired in 1912. After visiting America and Europe to enquire into the frozen meat and export business, he returned to organise his own export business. War intervened, and Australian meat was taken over under Imperial contract. He was appointed Chairman of the Meat Board, and re-organised Homebush Abattoirs. Later, he was the first Chairman of the Australian Meat Council. In addition, he held a number of other responsible positions associated with grazing and stock interests. Passionately fond of sailing, he owned a seven ton yacht, the Scot Free. He married Jessie McIntyre, and they had three children. He died in 1943.60

Another member of John Cramsie's family worthy of some extended mention was Lilias, who became a nun, joining the Presentation Order, and serving out her life in the Hay and Wagga Wagga Convents. This Order was formed at Hay in 1883, and Lilias joined it there on 15th May 1902. She made her vows on 14th November 1904, Bishop Dunne, assisted by Father Moran, conducting the service. Her sister, Mrs Wallace went from Singleton to be present for that occasion. Had members of John Clancy's family still been at Booligal (especially the three sisters, for Jessie maintained correspondence with Lilias) they would certainly have been present, but by that date the sisters had moved to Hoxton Park.

Lilias was a big-framed woman, but diabetes and a bad heart were her lot for many years. Named Sister Joseph, she taught music, and was regarded by fellow sisters as a brilliant musician. Sister Bernadette has written concerning her:

"Sister Joseph is still remembered by old identities for the beauty of her singing voice as she led the little choir of the tiny church dedicated to St. Virgilius, years before he was posthumously anglicised, and became St. Fergal. The organ Sister Joseph played has been abandoned, hidden away. The firm supplying the modern electronic replacement took one look at the proffered trade-in and offered Father Hynes sixty dollars if he would keep it. "Sic transit gloria mundi".

Sister Joseph loved to sing, and even in her old age would often add a descant to the English hymns -hymns that, like the old organ are now out-moded, frowned on as too sentimental, too slow moving, lacking the beat. For "Mother of Christ", a special favourite, Sister Joseph reserved a rather plaintive descant high and clear above the simple melodic line.

One evening, she chanced to sit beside old Sister Berchmans, who was frankly puzzled. "I always heard that Sister Joseph was a great musician", she said, "but do you know she was right off the note tonight, all through "Mother of Christ". I hastily defended Sister's musicianship, but the explanation carried no weight. Sister Berchmans and the dour Archbishop Cranmer were of one mine - "Descants -anathema sit"

"Many years have passed since May and Sister Joseph made music together. It is nice to know that the memory still lingers, for she added a grace to the little town."61

In a letter to me, Sister Benedicta wrote:

"I always remember Sister Joseph in the 1920's as a kindly, gracious woman. She was delicate, and when my sister and I came as very young boarders, one of her duties was to look after the "little ones". She was so kind to us. She told us stories, and sometimes used her great talent to play the piano for us. She was something of a haven from a governess employed at that time. At the convent "do's", she would play away without a note of music while someone else played the violin, and all sang."

Her complete devotion to her church is expressed in a letter to her cousin Jessie Clancy, whom she thanks for writing regularly. She thanks God that Jessie's niece and nephew Mary and Gerard Cork, "have the dear Sisters of St. Joseph to teach them". Referring to another person, she thanks God that "he has become a Catholic".

Sister Benedicta told me she had lovely brothers and sisters who spoiled her. She was only 10 years old when her mother died, and this would not have been surprising. Her nieces, Elizabeth and Ruth, daughters of Reginald Cramsie, were boarders at Wagga Convent and knew her well. Gangrene set in her leg, and she was admitted to Calvary Hospital, Wagga, for amputation of the leg, but she died on the operating table on 9th July 1952. She carried into the twentieth century the same intense faith and zeal that burned so strongly in her great-uncle, Ranald Rankin, in the nineteenth century.62


Before we close this chapter on the Rankins, it may be fitting to note further incidents in the life of John and Eliza Clancy while they remained in the Bendigo district, the other Clancys having crossed into New South Wales. The story of the Clancys in that State will be taken up in the next chapter.

John and Eliza's first child was born on 4th lune 1859 (six months prior to Thomas Clancy's death), and baptised Thomas on 12th 3une at St. Kilian's Church, sponsors being grandmother Anne Clancy and uncle Richard Patrick Clancy. The second child, Duncan Richard, was born in 1861. No birth certificate is available, and there is no record of his baptism in the Register at St. Kilian's Church. His death certificate indicated the birthplace as Geelong, corrected to read Inglewood, which seems more likely. It is a pity that we lack information from the other sources, for it would have shed light on John's occupation and place of abode, about which we have nothing for the few years following his father's death.

Janet Rankin

Janet Rankin

The third child, Jessie, was born on 5th November 1863, and baptised in Bendigo on 8th November, sponsors being Malcolm and Amelia MacDonald. The fourth child, John, was born on 22nd July 1866, at which time his father was manager of a sheep station (location not known). Eliza came to her mother's home for the confinement, and the baby was baptised in Bendigo by Rev. Francis McCarthy on 5th August, sponsors being Ronald Rankin and Amy (Amelia?) MacDonald.

Not very long after the birth of John, his parents moved into New South Wales, Ronald Rankin going with them. Their story will be resumed in the next chapter.63

This chapter has been primarily the story of the Rankins. It is fitting that we should close with some further reference to that grand old lady, Janet Rankin, who outlived her brother and sisters, and all but two of her children.

Born in the Highlands of Scotland, married and widowed in Greenock, she brought her seven children to Victoria and made her home in Bendigo where she lived (with but a short break at Kyneton) for over forty years. Some of her family stayed near her, others moved well away, but from time to time these visited her. Patrick Clancy recalled how, as a small boy, he was taken by his mother Eliza from Booligal to visit her. He remembered the long low verandah extending along the full length of the front of the house, with grape vines trailing along the eaves. Janet loved to receive older relatives, and they would sit on that verandah conversing happily in their beloved Gaelic.

Not only were Rankin names handed down to succeeding generations, but the Highland traditions and faith of the Rankins was also handed on, and in such matters Janet played her part. She died in the home where she had lived so long, in Lyttleton Terrace, on 14th March 1899 at the advanced age of 97 years. Sons Alexander at Pooncarie and Ronald (address not known) were still alive, but it was her grandson, Ronald, who was on hand, and who attended to funeral arrangements. She was buried in Bendigo Cemetery on 15th March near two of her daughters.64

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