Category Archives: People

OTD: “The game’s on!” Wild Gunfight at Commercial Bank, Eltham, 15 Dec 1949

Are you familiar with the little yellow and orange brick Op-shop building at 810 Main Road, Eltham, just in front of the Uniting Church (formerly Methodist Church)  on the corner of John Street? Nowadays, not many people may realise that this was once the Eltham agency of the Commercial Bank of Australia. Measuring just 3.6 x 4.5 m inside, it was built in 1878 by George Stebbing and is said to have stored gold in the early Eltham-Research mining days.

Well . . .

The Commercial Bank at Eltham, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

#OnThisDay – 70 years ago #OTD Thursday, December 15, 1949, the quiet little bank was embroiled in an infamous wild shoot-out between a daring thief and two bank officers. Today, the building still carries the scars ; a bullet hole remains visible in a cedar bench testifying to the events that played out that day.

But let us first time travel back to a few days prior to this incident. It is 3.30 a.m., Friday, December 9. The manager of the Commercial Bank branch at Greensborough, Mr Harry Wallace and his wife are asleep in their bedroom of the little house behind the branch. Harry is awakened by a noise and sees an intruder in a corner of the bedroom. He calls out but the intruder who has switched off the power in anticipation flees through a side door and scarpers down Main Street. Harry summons the police but a search by First Constable Thomas of the Greensborough Police assisted by a wireless patrol car is unsuccessful. A report is filed noting the theft of a .25 calibre pistol from the wardrobe.

Scene of the gun battle at Eltham (Vic.), The Daily Telegraph, 16 december, p1

Fast forward six days to Thursday, December 15th. It is 1pm and the Commercial Bank has just opened. The branch is only open Mondays and Thursdays from 1-3pm. The morning started off a little cool with some scattered showers but it has fined up and the temperature is now around 61 degrees (16 C). A new grey Singer sports car with soft-top pulls up on the opposite side of the road and a young man, neatly dressed in a dark blue suit, wearing a grey hat and carrying a brief case exits the vehicle. He looks around then crosses the road and walks up the steps and through the door into the bank. There are three people inside; Mr. Jack Burgoyne whose grocery store is situated just 50 yards up the road, Mr. Lindsay A. Spears, the Eltham Agency Receiving Officer and by chance, Mr Harry Wallace, manager of the Greensborough branch.

Jack Burgoyne takes note of the young stranger; thinking to himself he appears nervous.

Mr. Lindsay Spears ,Receiving Officer, Commercial Bank of Australia, Eltham, The Age, 17 December 1949, p3

The man approaches the counter and introduces himself as John Henderson of Greensborough and explains that he wishes to open a new account. He places his hat and £3 on the counter. Mr Spears attends to the paperwork. He asks the young man to sign two forms, which he does but then he withdraws from the counter and starts walking towards the door. Suddenly he spins around pulling an automatic pistol from his right-hand pocket. He exclaims forcefully;

“The game’s on! I’ll take the lot!”

Spears appears to comply by pretending to open a drawer. The man shouts loudly,

“Keep your hand away from that drawer.”

Spears instead reaches for a pistol in his pocket and challenges the man,

“Here it is. Come and get it!”

At the same time, Harry Wallace pulls a pistol from his pocket as well.

The bandit fires a shot but misses, the bullet striking the counter. Both Spears and Wallace open fire and Jack Burgoyne ducks for cover.

As the bandit turns and runs for the door leaving his £3 behind, he fires another shot, which strikes the ceiling. Spears fires back, and thinks he may have hit him in the foot. The bandit flees the bank and heads for the grey Singer car, registration NO-106, parked opposite. Wallace and Spears pursue him to the door and open fire again, striking the car three times around the driver’s door. Spears lets off eight shots and Wallace, seven before his gun jams.

Senior-Constable N. Forbes examining -bullet holes (indicated) in the body of a stolen car in which the bandit escaped, The Age, 16 December 1949, p1

The getaway car initially heads slowly down Main Road towards Bridge Street. About 100 yards down the road, Dave Adams, a PMG employee, who has heard the shots, throws a steel manhole step at the driver. It hits the roof of the car nine inches above the driver’s head and tears the hood. Another witness claims to have seen the door blow open and the driver raise his hand.

The car gathers speed and swings left into Bridge Street racing along at about 60 miles an hour careering recklessly past council employee, Mr. Percy Williams, who is driving a dray along Smarts Road [believed to be Bridge Street].

BANK HOLD-UP: SHOTS ECHOED IN QUIET STREET, The Argus, Friday, December 16, 1949, p3

At the end of the road the Singer fails to get round the sharp turn and crashes into an embankment skidding to a stop outside the home of Mr John Clifford. One side of the car is wrecked. Mr Clifford, an aircraft engineer hears the fast travelling car bump heavily into the road bank at about 1.25 p.m. Hearing the whine of an engine he goes outside to find the grey Singer parked at the side of the road.

Jack George also lives at the corner and hears the car crash.

“The bandit opened the car door, ran 50 yards, and suddenly turned back,” exclaims Jack. “He took something from the car. It might have been a gun.”

In his haste, the bandit drops his grey felt hat, size 6 7/8, on the road and dashes up Sherbourne Road for about 200 yards then disappears into the scrub carrying a brief case and a bundle in which a sailor’s cap can be seen.

About 3 p.m., Mr H.D. Pettie of Mountain View Road, Montmorency is looking through his field glasses and notices a young man walking through thick scrub on private property some distance from his house. The man is wearing a sailor’s cap and disappears along the railway track toward Montmorency.

ELTHAM HOLD-UP. — (Left) — Shire employe Percy Williams narrowly escaped a collision as the bandit fled in a stolen car. (Right) A police constable searching in the scrub where the fugitive disappeared after abandoning the car, The Age, 16 December, 1949, p3

As the day progresses, ten police cars, one motor cycle, and about 40 police led by Det. Sgt. McMennemin of Malvern CIB are searching for him. They believe he is hiding in thick scrub along the bank of the creek about half-a-mile outside Eltham township. Wireless patrol cars, four mobile traffic cars and the CIB area cars from Malvern and Kew are taking part.

Police check the thief’s car and discover it was stolen from Helen Baxter, of Doncaster Road, North Balwyn from outside Victoria Barracks.

Harry Wallace informs the police that he believes he recognised the bandit as the man who took his pistol from his bedroom the previous Friday morning.

As night falls, armed police are posted at strategic points in the Eltham-Greensborough district. Police in cars are watching the roads. Others are searching the bush and checking passengers on trains. Little do they realise the young man has already slipped out of the net.

SEQUEL
YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM

Weekly Times, Wednesday 15 February 1950, page 6

Detectives who raided a house in Bell St., Coburg, Melbourne, charged a 19-year-old youth, of South Yarra, with attempted armed robbery at the Commercial Bank’s Eltham (Vic.) receiving depot on Dec. 15. Police say they recovered a loaded automatic pistol, diamond and signet rings worth more than £200, a complete set of house-breaking instruments, a sailor’s uniform, and chloroform gauze in the raid.

The youth was charged that while armed with an offensive weapon, he attempted to rob Lindsay George Spears of a sum of money.

He was further charged on six counts of breaking, entering and stealing.

Police allege that the person who tried to hold up Mr Spears in the Commercial Bank receiving depot at Eltham on December 15. escaped in a stolen car, after Mr Spears and Mr Henry Wallace, manager of the bank’s Greensborough branch, had fired at him.

After the car crashed, he escaped into thick scrub and is alleged to have changed into a sailor’s uniform.

On December 9 an automatic pistol was stolen from Mr Wallace’s bedroom at the Greensborough bank. The chloroform pad recovered is alleged to have been stolen from the Dental Supply Company, Plenty Road, Preston.

The rings are alleged to have been taken in a £513 burglary from the shop of James Paton. Sydney Road, Coburg.

Det. Sgt. H. McMennemin conducted the investigations with Senior Dets. R. Newton and M Downie, Detectives l. Dent, R. Rayner, P. Pedersen and M. Handley and First Constable A. Thomas. The youth will appear at Eltham Court on February 22.

Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank

The Age, Thursday 23 February 1950, page 4

It was stated in Eltham court yesterday that a youth who robbed a bank manager of his pistol, later used it in an attempt to hold-up the bank.

Kay Arthur Morgan, 19, draftsman, of Castle-street, South Yarra, was committed for trial on charges of breaking and entering, and stealing a pistol and attempted robbery while armed with an offensive weapon. He pleaded guilty.

The manager of Eltham branch of the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd., Henry Clifton Cabot Wallace, said he disturbed someone in the bedroom, in which he and his wife were sleeping, at 3 a.m. on December. 9, 1949. Later he found that his automatic- pistol was missing.

On December 15 a youth, who said his name was John Henderson, entered the bank and opened a new account. As the youth was leaving the bank he turned round with a pistol in his hand and said: — “I want the lot.” Spear indicated a drawer under the counter; and said.— “Here it is. Come and get it.” The youth said:— “Keep your hand away from that drawer.”

Witness said Spear then drew his pistol from his hip pocket. The youth fired at them, and Spear returned the fire. “I pulled my pistol and fired, too” said witness. The youth fired again, ran out to a car and drove off. Witness and Spear fired several shots at the car.

The youth was the accused Morgan, sitting in court, witness said.

Evidence was given that one bullet was found in the celling and the other in the bank.

Morgan was allowed £100 bail on each charge.

 

But wait, there’s more; another twist

Morgan ended up serving three years for the failed armed robbery and became a notorious criminal. He had twin sons, Peter and Doug and even though only ten years old, Morgan would get his sons to act as lookouts whilst he committed burglaries. The lads became building contractors but when the industry suffered a downturn in 1977 and they were short on cash, they returned to the family business. Over the following 23 months they undertook 24 raids on country and outer-suburban TABs and banks. Whilst robbing one country bank for the third time, just like their father, it all went wrong ending up with a police officer shot. They were nick-named the “After-dark” bandits and are considered to be Australia’s last bushrangers. They were convicted and served 17 years in prison.

References

1949 ‘Took Pistol From Bank’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 9 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244149395

1949 ‘GUNFIGHT IN BANK NEAR MELBOURNE’, The Herald (Melbourne, Vic. : 1861 – 1954), 15 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article244139967

1949 ‘Hunt for bandit switches to city’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22798717

1949 ‘POLICE HUNT FOR ELTHAM BANDIT’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482129

1949 ‘-Police Search for Bank Intruder’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 16 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189482349

1949 ‘BANK OFFICIALS FOIL BANDIT’, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1931 – 1954), 16 December, p. 1. , viewed 13 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article248155927

1949 ‘Search of Scrub Proves Fruitless’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 17 December, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article189481390

1950 ‘Eltham Bank Arrest Leads to Other Charges’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 14 February, p. 3. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348311

1950 ‘YOUTH OF 19 CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY OF BANK AT ELTHAM’, Weekly Times (Melbourne, Vic. : 1869 – 1954), 15 February, p. 6. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article225452914

1950 ‘Manager’s Gun Used in Holdup at Bank’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 23 February, p. 4. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article187348043

1950 ‘”Guilty” plea to pistol theft COURT TOLD OF LAD’S HOLD-UP BID’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 23 February, p. 7. , viewed 12 Dec 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22812474

‘Australia’s last bushrangers were twins’ by John Sylvester, The Age, April 27, 2019, https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/australia-s-last-bushrangers-were-twins-20190424-p51gqb.html

‘Australia’s last bushrangers: How twin brothers robbed banks across Victoria while bamboozling police by escaping in taxis, bikes and even a canoe – and the one mistake that lead to their capture’ by Sahar Mourad, 9 May 2019 (also includes video of an interview with Peter and Doug Morgan aired on A Current Affairhttps://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/australias-last-bushrangers-how-twin-brothers-robbed-banks-across-victoria-while-bamboozling-police-by-escaping-in-taxis-bikes-and-even-a-canoe-and-the-one-mistake-that-lead-to-their-capture/ar-AAB8N3H?li=AAgfIYZ&%252525253BOCID=ansmsnnews11

 

 

OTD: Dedication of the Shire of Eltham War Memorial, 16 Nov. 1951

#OnThisDay – In 1951 #OTD the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brooks dedicated the war memorial tower and caretaker’s cottage at Garden Hill, Kangaroo Ground.

The tower has been a landmark since 1926 and above the portal on one side are the names of men who fell in the 1914-18 war. On another tablet unveiled by the Governor were inscribed the names of men who gave their lives in the 1939-45 war:-
Archer R., Bates A. L., Butherway J. H., Castledine G. E., Cary A. E., Clark R. C., Clerke A. C., Davies N. A., Dunlop C. D., Feldbauer T., Field K. F., Gahan S. M., Galletiy L. W. A., Guy T., Handley R . H. W., Hanlon H., F. L., Hellens W., Ingram L. S., McDonald E. H., McKimmie G. J., McLean S. C. A., McMahon .J. F., Morris A., Moyes J. A., Mynott L. R., Nichols, M. J., Walters G. W., West P.

The tower rising 50 feet was built by the people and committed to the care of the Eltham Shire Council in 1926. The suggestion of a memorial park was credited to Mr. V. A, Wippell (of Ivanhoe) and of a tower to Mr. B. Hall (of Panton Hill) being a replica of the watchtowers of early England and Scotland. The stone was the gift of Professor Osborne and was quarried on his Kangaroo Ground property. From the same area came the stone for the caretaker’s cottage added in 1951 by the Shire Council and which had charge of the arrangements.

Let’s take a journey 68 years back in time to that moment and join in the ceremonies . . .

Meeting at Lower Plenty, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Sir Dallas Brooks, is attended by Capt. T. Kirwan Taylor. They are met at the Lower Plenty bridge (the line of demarcation between the municipalities of Eltham and Heidelberg) by the Shire President (Cr. F. .Griffith) and the Shire Secretary (Mr. R. J. Ham). Mr. G . Moir (as vice president) is representing the State branch of the R.S.L..

Lower Plenty School’s welcome, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Hearing that the Governor would be passing the Lower Plenty school on his way to open the Memorial at Kangaroo Ground an unrehearsed “reception” was quickly arranged. Obtaining permission from the headmaster, the school boys’ band got ready. As the Governor arrives at the school they strike up and play the National Anthem, of course! The Governor is pleasantly surprised,  thanks the children and grants them a holiday. He then returns to his car and the official party set off on the remainder of their journey to Kangaroo Ground.

The Tower . . Kangaroo Ground, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

At Garden Hill, 30 minutes later there is an air of excitement stirring among the gathered crowd as whispers start passing along the line that the official party have just arrived. In the company gathered around the edifice are numerous residents who remember the original unveiling by Lord Stonehaven on Armistice Day, a few days and 25 years ago.

The approach pathway is lined with children from many of the district schools and men who served in both wars are lining up to form a guard of honor section near the tower. There are veterans and young men and women, wearing on their breasts the colors, medals and other decorations won in battle. In charge is Mr. F. D. Stevens, the president of the R.S.L..

Introducing Guard of Honour, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

His Excellency finds time to amuse the children with some brief words and shakes hands with every member of the guard and with the next-of-kin of the honored dead.

Meeting R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative, Mr. G. Moir, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Shire President’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
R.S.S.A.I.L.A. Representative’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
His Excellency’s Address, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)
Portion of Guests, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Following the addresses by the President and Mr. Moir, the Governor in a moving ceremony of dedication releases the flag-covering of the memorial tablet. As the flag falls to the side revealing the new memorial tablet, a simple unforgettable tribute resonates from from tower-top with the stirring bugle note of “Last Post” and “Reveille.”

Presentation, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

Mr R.J. Ham, the Shire Secretary then presents the Governor with a beautifully prepared brochure programme and for Lady Brooks, a gold bar brooch on which is mounted a small nugget.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

The official party and guests then make their way to the Kangaroo Ground hall where an excellent afternoon tea has been prepared by the wonderful ladies from the various branches of the Country Women’s Association led by the Diamond Valley Group president, Mrs. V. Middleton.

Afternoon Tea, 16 Nov 1951
(Photo: Stuart Tompkins; from the collection of Eltham District Historical Society)

It has been a day packed full of excitement, tears of sadness over our lost loved ones  and lots of good things to eat. But now it’s time to return to present day and hopefully reflect upon what those who came before us, wished for us to benefit from.

* Lest We Forget *

References

1951 ‘Dedication of Memorial Tower’, The News; The Newspaper of the City of Heidelberg and the Shire of Eltham (Heidelberg, Vic), 23 (?) November

Myles Archibald Lyons (1823-1899)

Headstone of Myles Archibald Lyons (1823-1899) and four children, Eltham Cemetery

In 1872 Senior Constable Myles Lyons replaced Peter Lawlor at Eltham Police Station. Earlier in his career, he had taken part in a search (one of many) for missing explorers Burke and Wills. At Eltham, his arrests ranged from minor instances of theft, vandalism and larrikinism to serious cases of manslaughter, murder and attempted suicide. He even tracked down and arrested two Norwegian seamen charged with desertion from their vessel. While conveying a prisoner from Eltham to Melbourne in 1886, he was attacked by the prisoner en route.

It seems that much of the local news in the Evelyn Observer was provided by Eltham Shire Secretary C.S. Wingrove. In 1878, Eltham residents held an “Indignation Meeting” at the Evelyn Hotel, complaining that the reporting had denigrated Lyons’ conduct and had stigmatised the character of Eltham’s inhabitants. They passed a resolution castigating Wingrove and supporting Lyons. Wingrove claimed to have been misconstrued. But in 1887 the Evelyn Observer carried a long ranting vitriolic editorial. It complained about inadequate policing generally, then attacked Lyons personally, saying that (although efficient in the past) he had now become incompetent and needed to be replaced by a younger more energetic man.

Myles Lyons retired due to ill health in 1889 but remained in Eltham until his death in 1899. He is buried in Eltham Cemetery with his wife Flora and five of their children. Four sons moved to Western Australia where two were killed in unconnected railway accidents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Paul Lawlor (1821-1876)

Headstone of Peter Lawlor, Eltham Cemetery, Sept. 2017

The Victorian gold rush came to Eltham in the early 1850s and with it came a crime wave. Local traders called for police protection. This led to the appointment in 1857 of Irish-born Peter Lawlor as Senior Constable at Eltham. In 1859 Peter and his wife Kate were able to move into an official police residence at the corner of Maria Street (now Main Road) and Brougham Street, with stables out the back and a large paddock for grazing across the road. Some of their children went to Eltham Primary School. That 1859 police residence is now the home of the Eltham District Historical Society. The small wooden building on the very corner is a modern replica of the separate police station/office built around 1885-1900.

Cases investigated by Constable Lawlor included murders, stealing  (horses, cattle, fowls, watches, linen, clothing), a search for a missing person, and two separate instances of abandoned children seeking help. He was officially commended in 1866 for bringing to justice a man who had indecently assaulted an 11-year old girl. Sadly, there was a similar but unconnected case only a few months later. But events had a lighter side; in 1871 Kate lent her piano to the Snowflakes Christy Minstrels for a Catholic Church fund-raising concert.

Peter was transferred to Prahran in 1872. He died in 1876 and is buried in Eltham Cemetery with four of his children. His headstone was stolen  some time after May 1990 but was returned anonymously (broken into three pieces) in August 2013. It is resting on his grave but has not been re-erected.

Headstone of Peter Lawlor, Eltham Cemetery, May 1990

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage Walk: Eltham Cemetery – 2.00 pm Saturday, 19 October, 2019

Meet at 2.00 pm (Melway ref 21 K9) in the cemetery car park entered from Metery Road.

Gate, Eltham Cemetery c.1960 (Photo: George Bell, from the collection of EDHS)

The Eltham Cemetery is the custodian of more than 150 years of Eltham’s history.

As part of Local History Week activities, this special walking tour will visit the historical sections of the cemetery where we will share information about selected pioneers who contributed to the establishment of early Eltham. We will also talk about interesting and important local people buried in more recent times.

The walk is open to Society members and the general public. Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

All are welcome…..but numbers are limited

Are you related to the DILLON, MURRAY or SWEENEY families?

The Eltham Cemetery Trust needs your help.

Gravestone in memory of Michael DILLON, d.1916 and his wife, Bridget Cecilia, d.1927.
Photo: Eltham Cemetery Trust 2016

Are you related in some way to Michael Dillon (1851-1916) or Bridget Cecilia Dillon (1849-1927) who are buried in the Eltham Cemetery?

It is our understanding from a rudimentary search of records available from Ancestry.com that Bridget was the daughter of John Wright MURRAY(1816-1867) and Mary SWEENEY(1833-1909). She married Hamilton DRAIN(1847-1886) in 1884 and they had a daughter, Mary Ellen DRAIN(1886-1888).

Following husband Hamilton Drain’s death in 1886, and her infant daughter Mary’s death in 1888,  Bridget married Michael Dillon in 1894. It appears that she and Michael had no children together.

Electoral roll records indicate that Michael was a farmer and that he and Bridget lived in Research, Vic.

Some damage has occurred to their monument and the Eltham Cemetery Trust must take reasonable steps to attempt to locate a next of kin or family member. Unfortunately, there was no purchase information recorded, only the following details; no next of kin.

Deceased Location Date of Death Interment Date
Michael Dillon Roman Catholic 205 10/12/1916 11/12/1916
Bridget Cecilia Dillon Roman Catholic 206 7/04/1927 19/04/1927

The photo of the headstone is dated 4 May 2016, which provides the best detail of the inscription.The headstone has deteriorated further in the last few years.

If you are related or have information that may be of assistance to the Eltham Cemetery Trust in preserving this headstone from further damage, please contact:

Julia Drew | Governance & Projects Coordinator
ELTHAM CEMETERY TRUST
Burial Grounds: Mt Pleasant Road, Eltham
PO Box 423, Eltham Vic 3095
Phone: : (03) 9432 1963
Email: : projects@elthamcemetery.com
Website: : http://www.elthamcemetery.com

George Bird (1845-1920)

George Bird was born in England in 1845 and arrived in Australia in 1856 as a child of assisted migrants. Soon afterwards he came out to Eltham to live with his uncle George Stebbing, working for him as bricklayer’s assistant in building, amongst others, Shillinglaw Cottage and the Anglican and Methodist Churches in Eltham. He later purchased 72 acres at the eastern end of Pitt Street (bounded by Eucalyptus Road, Mount Pleasant Road and present-day Rockliffe Street) and established the property “View Hill”, which was worked as a mixed farm and orchard.

Bird family orchard, Pitt Street, Eltham, c.1980s. View looking northeast from near the junction of Wattle Grove and Mount Pleasant Road across to Eucalyptus Road on right and Pitt Street at top.

In 1878 he married Janet Kilpatrick, who had emigrated from Scotland. They had ten children, three of whom died in infancy. The wedding in 1904 of their eldest surviving daughter Sarah (“Sis”) to Edward Pepper appears to have been quite a society event.

Wedding of Sarah Ann Bird (b.1881) to Edward Ernest Pepper (b.1874) held at the Bird family home of “View Hill’, Eltham, 1904. Sarah Bird 4th from left (seated) and Edward Pepper on her left (standing). George Bird, 2nd from right (seated).
Digitised from original held in private collection

George was a staunch Methodist, a Church Steward and a Sunday School Superintendent in about 1890. Janet died in 1915 and George died in 1920 (though his gravestone says 1921). George’s will stated that his property was to be divided between all his children in equal shares. This necessitated subdivision of the ‘View Hill’ property, between 1922 and 1926. George, Janet and several descendants, are buried in a family plot in the cemetery.

One son, George Hugh Bird, operated a drapery store in Main Road (near Bridge Street) in around 1915.

George Hugh Bird’s Cash Drapery Mart on right, looking south along Maria Street (Main Road), Eltham near Bridge Street, c.1909. Post Office on left

Later, in the 1920s, he ran a greengrocer’s shop (also selling confectionery) in Main Road opposite Eltham Station. It was the first shop in Eltham to have plate glass windows. At the same time, his brother Reg had a grocery store on the station side of Main Road.

Bibliography:

Private Research, Bird family; copy held by EDHS

References:

1904 ‘ORANGE BLOSSOM.’, Evelyn Observer and Bourke East Record (Vic. : 1902 – 1917), 18 November, p. 3. (MORNING.), viewed 14 Mar 2018, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60628991