Mystery Headstone – Peter Lawlor, 1821-1876

A Plea from Harry Gilham
‘I have an unfinished tale to tell……..’

To start…where were you on the Friday evening or Saturday morning of August 3rd – 4th 2013?

Why this question? Well, read on through this account to find out….and then, hopefully, you can help to fill in the blanks.

A weathered headstone, broken into three parts, was discvered that August night in a soggy cardboard box leant against the main entry to Eltham Cemetery in Mount Pleasant Road, Eltham. The headstone belonged to the 1876 burial of Peter Lawlor – no – not the Eureka Peter Lalor and possibly not even the Peter Lawlor who was the first Police Officer at the Eltham Police Station from 1857 to 1872, but maybe even another Peter Lawlor of, at the moment, an unknown background………or does the headstone belong to the policeman?

From the headstone we do know that his children were Michael, Margaret, Maud and Edith.

Lawlor Headstone-2

The Inscription reads:

Peter Lawlor
Who died February 12th 1876
Aged 55 years
Also his children
Michael
Margaret
Maud
and Edith

The maintenance staff at the cemetery carefully removed the dark green fungus to show those details. As you now walk past Site 22 in the cemetery you will notice that a bluestone base remains with a centre grooved indent, retaining most of the bottom edge of the headstone. The three recovered parts have been attached to a heavy wooden board and lie on the grave at site 22.

During the 1960’s to early 1980’s a list of all the headstone inscriptions in the Eltham Cemetery was compiled by ‘someone’. This Peter Lawlor headstone was not included in this list. From this omission we can assume that it had been taken/borrowed prior to compilation of the list.

Research by the Cemetery Trust Secretary, Rita Wooley using their records found the following information about this Peter Lawlor family:

  1. Peter Lawlor purchased the Catholic Church site Number 22 for £1 on March 2nd 1862. (This site is beside the Sweeney and Murray family graves).
  2. Margaret was the first of his children buried in Eltham on 2nd March 1862, aged one year.
  3. The second child buried was Maud Kate who was buried on 26th June 1869, aged 11 days.
  4. There is no record of the burial of his other children, Michael and Edith nor his wife (name unknown).

However, from the free offerings from Ancestory.com the following information was recently obtained, but needs further confirmation and consideration.

  • The Peter Lawlor who died aged 55 in 1876 has a middle name of Paul and his parents were Daniel Lawlor and Bridget Mulhall.
  • The son Michael Lawlor was Jeremiah Michael Lawlor who died in 1860 and whose parents were Peter and Kate (no surnames given)
  • Margaret Sarah Lawlor who died in 1862, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge.
  • Maude Kate Lawlor who died in 1869, has parents listed as Peter Lawlor and Catherine Ledwedge. Edith Beatrice Lawlor who died in 1873 age 1, has parents listed as Peter and Kate.

The final bit of the confusion or is it the confirmation that the headstone is of the policeman and his family, is that the Eltham Primary School records list two children of Peter Lawlor (the policeman). The oldest is Albert Ledwedge Lawlor who joined the school aged 4 years in July 1866 and Peter Vincent de Paul Lawlor who joined the school aged 5 years 1 month in February 1869. Both left in March 1872.

The mystery is why or how did the headstone leave the cemetery and why or how or even by whom, did it return? Someone must know something! Any clues to the mystery are better than nothing.

The Eltham District Historical Society keeps records of early Eltham people and any additions are welcome. If you know anything about this Peter Lawlor and his family please contact anyone below. If needed, the sources of information can be anonymous by using the Post Office Box.

Contacts:

Eltham District Historical Society Post Office Box 137, Eltham 3095 or edhs1@bigpond.com
President – Jim Connor 9439 5916
Past President – Harry Gilham 9439 1175

Eltham Cemetery Trust
Secretary – Rita Wooley 9432 1963
Murray_Sweeney graves
The gravestone for Peter Lawlor and family lies adjacent to the Murray Sweeney graves

This article appeared in our January 2014 newsletter

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A Virtual Eltham Literary Tour

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

11th November 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Alan Marshall by Alan Martin; Nillumbik Shire Council Art Collection
Alan Marshall by Alan Martin; Nillumbik Shire Council Art Collection

The topic for our November meeting is inspired by a literary tour of Eltham organised by the Eltham Library a few years ago. Of course at a meeting we cannot actually visit sites associated with local writers but we will discuss their lives, writings and Eltham connections.

The starting point for this presentation was a long list of local writers, including many present day authors, with quite a few being members of our Society. To keep the presentation to a manageable length we will deal only with writers and literary figures who have passed away. The presentation by a panel of members will include a number of readings relevant to each of the subjects.

A particular feature will be the life and work of Alan Marshall who had a long association with Eltham and is our most famous and well known author. In 1971 he wrote Pioneers & Painters: One Hundred Years of Eltham and its Shire. In the chapter ‘Educationalists and Writers’ he notes that “Writers came to Eltham for the same reason as did the painters: their neighbours had similar interests and the surroundings attracted them.”

His stories about local writers have informed the preparation for this meeting.

This meeting will take place at 8.00 pm on Wednesday 11th November in the Eltham Senior Citizen’s Centre, Library Place Eltham.

As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

New EDHS Banner

IMG_0981_3

The Royal Historical Society Victoria (RHSV) invited affiliated historical societies and heritage groups to apply for the design of a rollup banner as a way to acknowledge and celebrate their History Week 2015 program. The Eltham District Historical Society was fortunate to be successful with an application, which meant we could proceed with submitting a layout to their graphic designers.

Our committee agreed with the draft design prepared by Jim Connor, which was then sent for final artwork and production. We are pleased with the banner we have received through the generous support of the RHSV.

This has already been displayed at a talk about Early Eltham Pioneers at the Eltham Library on 20 October 2015 as part of the RHSV Local History Week and also the Yarra Plenty Regional Library Local History Month. The banner will also be used at our meetings, future events and presentations as a means of promoting our Society and our interests in local history.

Heritage Walk: Panorama Heights Estate – 7 Nov, 2pm

Panorama Heights Estate
Montmorency South
Saturday 7th November 2015 at 2.00pm

Peck's Dam
Peck’s Dam – this former farm dam is a feature of this walk

This estate is a residential area of winding streets lined with indigenous local trees and includes secluded parks and walkways. Prior to its subdivision in the 1920s this was Tom Orr’s farm, a favourite painting place of the artist Walter Withers.

After it was subdivided by land developer John Quinn the sale of land and house building proceeded slowly. Much vacant land remained in the 1970s. This estate was unusual for its time, although to some extent it emulates the subdivision designs of Walter Burley Griffin, such as the heritage listed Glenard Estate in Heidelberg. It contains winding streets, irregularly shaped lots, secluded parks at the rear of lots and connecting walkways.

This walk will mostly not be one of historic buildings and the like although we will pass a group of heritage listed mud brick houses in Napier Crescent. Rather it will be a pleasant Peck’s Dam, this former farm dam is a feature of this walk walk through informal streets and parks imagining the past landscape that inspired Walter Withers and looking at aspects of this unusual 1920s subdivision. On the way we will discover the elusive southern boundary of the Montmorency Farm where it crosses streets and parks.

This circuit walk is about 3.5 km in length and will take 2 to 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the car park in Grand Boulevard opposite the Montmorency South School (Melway ref.21 E 7/8). It contains some hilly sections. This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members.

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063

The Eltham Cemetery – ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’

Two long-term residents of the Nillumbik Shire met for the first time late in 2011, a meeting that later resulted in the commissioning and creation of a recently installed sculpture in the Eltham Cemetery.

Michael Wilson, a recognised goldsmith, jeweller and sculptor has created this sculpture for Harold Mitchell AC, a patron of the arts, founder of the Mitchell Foundation and a successful businessman, who has also contributed his skills to many major cultural organisations.

‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ - Sculpture by Michael Wilson
‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ – Corten steel and bronze sculpture by Michael Wilson, 2015, commissioned by Harold Mitchell AC for Eltham Cemetery

Unveiled on Wednesday 1 July 2015 it is the first of the Eltham Cemetery Trust’s Grand Estate Sculptures. Titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ and constructed in Corten steel and bronze it recognises two of Eltham’s native species: the Red Box Eucalypt tree with its soft green scalloped shaped leaves and the Pied Currawong with its adept flight patterns and melodic chortle.

As the purchaser of one of the Grand Estate Plots in the Cemetery, Harold Mitchell AC intended to commission an artist to design and make a contemporary sculpture. He subsequently commissioned Michael Wilson to create a piece that would reflect the unique environment and artistic heritage of Eltham.

Plot No. 6 is located at the highest point of the fence-lined border between Montsalvat and the Cemetery. This is close to the last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, which was commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery, which was established in 1858. This sculpture is intended to express a sense of awakening to life as it depicts a rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly as it lands on a youth’s hand.

The last bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, titled ‘Young Man Awakening’, which was commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery, which was established in 1858. This sculpture is intended to express a sense of awakening to life as it depicts a rare and endangered Eltham Copper Butterfly as it lands on a youth’s hand.
‘Young Man Awakening’ – Bronze sculpture by Matcham Skipper, 2008, commissioned by the Eltham Cemetery Trust to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Cemetery

As Matcham Skipper was a mentor and early supporter of Michael Wilson’s developing artistic talents the creative connection between these two installations is most appropriate. Michael considered the Mitchell commission was an opportunity to create a very special work to reflect the beauty of the Eltham environment and the local community.

The Eltham Cemetery is a peaceful natural environment set in natural bushland adjoining Montsalvat and is the tranquil resting place for members of many well-known local families. Pioneering families represented include Shillinglaw, Brinkkotter, Bird, Carrucan, Sweeney, Hunniford, Knapman, Falkiner and Wallis. More contemporary names include Knox, Ford and Fabbro. Sir William Irvine, a former Premier and Chief Justice of Victoria is also buried there.

Unveiled on Wednesday 1 July 2015 it is the first of the Eltham Cemetery Trust’s Grand Estate Sculptures. Titled ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’ and constructed in Corten steel and bronze it recognises two of Eltham’s native species: the Red Box Eucalypt tree with its soft green scalloped shaped leaves and the Pied Currawong with its adept flight patterns and melodic chortle.
Detail of ‘A Currawong Takes Flight’

 

Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders

Eltham District Historical Society Meeting

9th September 2015 at 8pm

Eltham Senior Citizens’ Centre, Library Place, Eltham

Nillumbik Tales - Voices of our Elders
Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders

On 4th October 2014 Nillumbik Shire Council launched a publication titled ‘Nillumbik Tales – Voices of our Elders’, which is a collection of colourful and personal snapshots of our local community.

The unique Nillumbik based stories have been written by a variety of authors, including some who are members of our Society. At our meeting on Wednesday 9th September 2015 we will be having some of our members reading their own ‘Nillumbik Tale.’

In collating and publishing this historically important collection Nillumbik Shire Council has documented many aspects of our area and of the people who contributed to our community. The original print run of ‘Nillumbik Tales’ was sold out and there has been a reprint. We hope to have some copies available for sale at the meeting.

As at all of our meetings, new members and visitors are most welcome.

Heritage Walk: Research Aqueduct – 5 Sept., 2pm

Saturday 5th September 2015 at 2.00pm

Research Aqueduct
Research Aqueduct

For nearly 100 years the aqueduct that winds around the hills above Research township supplied water to Melbourne from the Watts River near Healesville and later the Maroondah Reservoir. It was commissioned in 1891 and was replaced by large pipes in the 1980s. The unused channel remains largely intact and the access track is now a walking and cycling path.

The aqueduct path is the main feature of our excursion on Saturday 5th September. This will be a different part of the aqueduct to that included in our 2010 Research walk. The first part of the walk will be
up Ingrams Road and the return is through Research Park. Comments along the way will be largely based on Jim Allen’s study of the history of Research and our comprehensive aqueduct file.

This circuit walk is about 4 km in length and will take about 2.5 hours. It will start at 2pm at the Research shopping centre in Main Road (Melway ref. 22 G2). It is mainly on made paths but does
include some uphill sections.

This free walk is open to the general public as well as Society members……… but numbers are limited.

Dogs are not permitted on Society excursions.

Phone number of contact on the day is 0409 021 063