Tag Archives: Stapylton-Bree

The Hungry Eagle

I had to share this story with you.

John Kirkwood was the father in law of Sarah Ann Reed, the niece of Susan Reed, wife of James Harman.  While checking his rabbit traps, John found a large eagle caught in a trap.  He took the bird to the Hamilton home of Robert Stapylton Bree on North Boundary road.  Bree chained the raptor in the garden to keep other birds away but he got more than he bargained for with the bird’s voracious appetite.

The Portland Guardian, (50th Year of Publication.) With which is incorporated The Portland Mirror. (1892, May 18). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved June 14, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65439001

I wonder what happened to the eagle?

Dozens of articles about eagles and hawks caught in rabbit traps abound found at Trove.  Some eagles still flew with the traps attached and one poor bird was reported with a trap attached  for months.


On sad note, 10 years on, in 1902, John Kirkwood succumbed to influenza.  His obituary appeared in The Horsham Times of October 28, 1902.  John had died in the Hamilton Hospital on Wednesday October 22.  On October 31, 1902, the obituary of John’s daughter, 20-year-old Mary Agnes Kirkwood.  She had passed away on  October 26.

OBITUARY. (1902, October 31). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 3. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72851290



A search of Trove found that in 1902 there were reports of an influenza epidemic.  The Horsham Times reported many cases in the Wimmera area.  Such was the outbreak,  it had an effect on The Horsham Times.

What the Dickens?

Today marks 200 years since the birth of writer Charles Dickens.  Growing up in Hamilton in the 1970s and 80s my limited diet of Dickens consisted of a production of “Oliver” circa 1978 by the local theatre group and repeats of an old version of “A Christmas Carol” on one of the two TV channels. Oh, and there was a street in Hamilton called Dickens Street, presumably named after Charles himself.    As there is a Burns, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Byron and Chaucer Street in Hamilton, it made sense to think Dickens Street was part of the theme the early town leaders had  happening.  Or did it?  Those other guys are poets anyway.

Having missed a copy of the first edition of a book by Hamilton researcher John McKay in 2007,  The Streets of Hamilton , Western Victoria,  Australia: A History of the People behind the Names, which had a limited print run, I was lucky enough to have Dad snare a copy of the revised 2nd edition in 2009.  It is a terrific book, and as I am familiar with all the street names, it was interesting to read who the streets were named after, with some surprises.

The biggest of those was that Dickens Street, Hamilton was not named after Charles Dickens, rather his son Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson Dickens.  Why?  Because he lived in Hamilton? What?  The son of one of the world’s most famous novelists could not have lived in Hamilton, my hometown Hamilton, a million miles from the world of Charles Dickens.

Unbelievable but true.  In fact, I find it a little mind-boggling that Alfred Dickens walked the streets of Hamilton 100 years before I did.

Alfred came to be in Australia as his father has sent him off to make his fortune, just as he did with his youngest son Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens (aka “Plorn”), who lived in New South Wales.

UNLUCKY PLORN DICKENS. (1939, November 4). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), p. 13. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-

Alfred’s travels led him to Hamilton where he set up an auctioneering business with Robert Stapylton Bree known as Bree, Dickens and Co.  They were in partnership from 1875-1882.

John McKay mentions a property at 32 Collins Street, Hamilton  which Alfred rented before building his own home next door.  The house is very familiar to me and I have been along the street  many times, so to think that the son of Dickens lived there is almost unbelievable.

It was an accident which claimed the life of his wife, Jessie Devlin, that saw Alfred Dickens leave Hamilton.

(1878, December 23). The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1858 – 1889), p. 5. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page2115990


Alfred packed up his two daughters and went to Melbourne.  He was known for his elocution skills and he began giving lectures on his father’s works.  It was on a trip to New York as  part of a speaking tour to England and the U.S. that Alfred died.

MR. ALFRED T. DICKENS. (1912, January 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 7. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11643665

First Issue, August 20, 1842. (1912, January 5). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 2 Edition: EVENING. Retrieved February 6, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63999947

I feel a bit ripped off that it took so long to find out about Hamilton’s brush with Charles Dickens.  But I feel I am not alone.  There would not be many people who either live or have lived in Hamilton that  would know the story of Alfred, except for local historians and those who have read John McKay’s book, of course.  Maybe we would know more of him if he had lived out his years in Hamilton, which it appeared he was preparing to do when Jessie met her death.  So on this day, the birthday of Charles Dickens, let us also remember Alfred and his time in the Western District.

Passing of the Pioneers

The September “Passing of the Pioneers” in the Portland Guardian saw  several prominent Western Victorian residents pass away and two of my own relatives.

Richard LEWIS – Died September 1890, “Bryngola” near Digby.  Richard owned some well known stations in the Western District including “Rifle Downs” and “Hilgay”.  An excellent biography of Richard Lewis is on the Ballarat Genealogical Society website.  Richard died as a result of Bright’s disease.

Samuel CROSSDied September 4, 1901,  Hamilton.  Samuel was 79 at the time of his death and had been in Australia since 1849 after travelling from Sussex, England.  He worked in, and owned, department stores including the Beehive Store in Hamilton.  In his later years he was a librarian at the Hamilton Mechanics Institute.

Jacob THEISINGER – Died September 13, 1901,  Portland.  Jacob, also a sufferer of Bright’s Disease, had been in the colony since around 1854.  He was a popular person around town and was a member of the Portland German Band.

R. STAPYLTON-BREE – Died September 17, 1907,  Hamilton.  Robert Edwin Windsor Sandys Stapylton-Bree was a Hamilton stock and station agent and well know identity not only in Hamilton, but also Portland.  He married the daughter of Stephen HENTY, Annie Maria.  His funeral was well attended with Dean Parkyn presiding over the service .  He and Archdeacon Hayman had motored the 119 mile trip from Ballarat in five hours.

Mrs D. McPHERSON – Died September, 1921,  Hamilton.  The former Miss STEWART was born in Kingussie, Scotland in around 1825 and travelled with her husband, Duncan McPherson, to Australia in 1851 on board the “Hooghly”.  While Duncan went off to the goldfields, Mrs McPherson waited in Melbourne until they journeyed to Portland.  For a time, she and her husband ran the Dartmoor Hotel.  She was a mother of eight children.

Mrs Elizabeth LAMB – Died September 18, 1825,  Millicent.  Mrs Lamb had grown up near Portland and the Guardian notes she rode 80 miles each day to school.  I am assuming this is a round trip, or it was a short school day.

Miss ROBERTSON – Died September, 1925,  Gringalgona.  Miss Robertson arrived in Sydney with her family in 1847 from Scotland.  They travelled to the Coleraine district by bullock wagon.

Mrs Margaret Emily CAMERON - Died September 5, 1928,  New Zealand.  Mrs Cameron was born Margaret McDonald.  Her parents were early pioneers and she spent time around Portland and Hamilton as a child with one of early memories being that of Adam Lindsay Gordon and his riding feats.  Margaret moved to New Zealand as a new bride and raised 12 children.

Mrs Margaret BELL – Died September 7, 1933,  Hamilton.  Margaret was born in County Caven, Ireland in 1853 to Mr and Mrs William Best.  They arrived at Portland on board the “General Hewitt” in 1856.  After time in Portland the Bests moved to Heywood when Margaret was nine. She married James Henry BELL and remained in the Heywood area.

Miss Ada Catherine HAYMAN – Died September 1934,  Portland.  Ada was born in Axminster, Devon, England in about 1858.  She arrived at Portland with her parents and siblings in the 1860s.  This is an interesting family.  Ada’s father was a doctor and practiced in Harrow, Edenhope and Ararat.  One of her brothers was a doctor, another Archdeacon Hayman presided over R. Stapylton-Bree’s funeral (above).  Another brother W.R. Hayman was one of those who organised the  Aboriginal cricketers’ tour of England in 1868.  The biography of one of the players, Johnny Mullagh, describes the part Hayman played.

Finlay McPherson PATON – Died September 1936,  Tarrayoukyan.  Finlay Paton was born at Sterlingshire, Scotland and after landing at Portland, took on the job of ringing the church bell and did so for 15 years.  This could have been just one of the reasons for his “magnificent physique”.  Maybe it was because he claimed that he was one of those that carted stones to build Mac’s Hotel in Portland.  Or was it lifting four bushel bags of wheat from the ground to a wagon, with little trouble.  He really must have been a fine specimen. As were his team of horses used for his carrying business. Bred by Finlay they were the “admiration of the district”

William DIWELL – Died September 1939,  Jeparit. William was my ggg uncle.  His obituary mentions his work as a builder and the several buildings in Portland remaining, at the time of his death, as memorials to his work.  It does mention he was a native of Portland, however he was born at Merino.  It correctly states his wife Frances was a native of Portland.

Thomas Haliburton LAIDLAWDied September 1941,  Hamilton.  Over 500 people were reportedly at the funeral of Thomas Laidlaw, a Hamilton stock and station agent.  Thomas was the son of pioneers, Thomas and Grace Laidlaw.   The obituary offers a great description of the early days of Thomas Laidlaw senior in the colony with his four brothers.  Thomas junior, along with building his successful stock and station business was at one time a Shire of Dundas Councillor, president of the Hamilton Racing Club and chairman of directors of the Hamilton and Western District College, today Hamilton and Alexandra College.  Laidlaw is one of the names that if I hear it, I think of Hamilton.

Henry MORTIMER – Died September 6, 1948,  Portland.  Another ggg uncle of mine, Henry was the son of James Mortimer and Rosanna Buckland.  He was born in Cavendish and was 80 at the time of his death at Portland.  He is best known at this blog as Mr Mortimer of Mr Mortimer’s Daughters.  This was an informative notice as it listed Henry’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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