Like petals on the shamrock
Under the shelter of each other we survive

From:  The Advocate Thursday 19th October, 1950    Memories & Musings by “M”
On October 16 occurred the centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the first church at Bacchus Marsh.
First record of the Bacchus Marsh event appeared in Bishop Goold’s diary for October, 1950.  [This diary, by the way, has not yet been discovered.  Extracts were printed in Cardinal Moran’s monumental work – The Catholic Church – in Australia – published some 50 years ago.  The Cardinal certainly had Bishop Goold’s diary – but what happened to it after he had used it has never been established].  The brief report on Bacchus Marsh is summed up by Bishop Goold as follows: “On Tuesday, the 15th inst. [October 1850], I visited Bacchus Marsh.  The next day I laid the foundation stone of a chapel, which I dedicated to St Laurence O’Toole.
Previous to the performance of this interesting ceremony, I celebrated the Holy Mysteries in the presence of a large congregation of seventy persons.  What made this visit so agreeable was the readiness with which all the adults availed themselves of our presence to approach the Sacrament of Penance.  No other reference is made to the event, and it is even strange that the metropolitan journals also neglected to record the occasion.  It is now considered that the brick building was used for the first school, opened early the next year, with Michael Callahan as first teacher.  It measured 25 feet by 15 feet and was 14 feet high.  Twenty boys, eight girls and two infants were present when the school started in February, 1851.
A large Catholic population had settled in the area from the foundation of the settlement and there is proof that Rev John Kavanagh [who seemed to have had a roving commission about Victoria] visited the district, administered the Sacraments and said Mass in private homes.  One of these was that of John Leahy, at whose home Dr. Goold stayed when he visited the district.  [The site on which the first church-school was situated was donated by Mr Leahy].
Earliest record of a visit of Fr Kavanagh was on August 8, 1848.  His name, with that of other priests of St Francis’ Church, is entered, against Bacchus Marsh in subsequent years.  Very Rev Dean Nicholas Coffey celebrated a marriage in the district in August 1849.  It is probable that prior to the departure of Bishop Goold for Europe in April, 1852, he appointed a pastor to the charge of Bacchus Marsh.  This was Rev Daniel Holohan [who had arrived in the colony on September 9, 1850, with Rev Edward McSweeney.  His first year in Victoria was a varied one – he had no fixed residence – and like Fr Kavanagh spent his time wandering the country.  There is record of his having been in Gippsland, but no registers show his name until his appearance at Bacchus Marsh in 1852.  From February, 1852, there is a series of baptisms by Fr Holohan ‘in the district of Bacchus Marsh’ and the first marriage was on September 6 of the same year between Thomas Kelly and Margaret Moore.  Fr Holohan was still in the district in 1853.  He confined himself generally to the religious duties and to tending the school, which had a varied existence.  The school, which had been opened early in 1851 was closed soon after when the teacher left, but was re-opened six weeks later with John Barry in charge.  Gold discoveries in the same year also temporarily closed the building, but it soon was re-established when Bacchus Marsh became a sort of halfway stop to the thousands of diggers.
Many business people established stores and tent dwellings in the vicinity and the population increased to warrant the re-opening of the building ‘as a church and school.’  A Government return of the time referred to the building ‘as being in a good state of repair  … and capable of holding 150 people….’  soon after Fr Holohan left. His last appearance in Victoria was at Geelong.  For a time he was in Sydney but returned to Ireland a few years later.  The next clergyman to take charge of the mission was Rev Francis Moore, who was one of eight priests who returned with Bishop Goold from Ireland in February, 1853.  He was first appointed to Gippsland but did not remain there.  From statistical returns he was shown at Bacchus Marsh in early 1853. He was still there in 1854, but in July of the same year was attached to St Francis. After his departure, the area was served from Keilor, where Rev Matthew Downing was pastor.  He occasionally visited Bacchus Marsh, until April, 1854, when Rev William Shinnnick, formerly pastor of Belfast [or Port Fairy], was appointed.
Six months later, Fr Shinnick returned to Belfast and was followed by Rev Eugene O’Connell, ‘first permanent priest’, whose memory still lives in the minds of the older members of the district.  It was during the early days of his long missionary career that the school was put on a solid foundation, a new teacher – Adelaide Chadwick – was appointed and the attendance rapidly increased.
Like the priests, however, teachers changed very frequently.
Denis Ryan followed Miss Chadwick, remained only six months – and was succeeded by Nicholas Brenan whose appointment was only three months – between April to June, 1855.  Michael Callahan – he was the first teacher – returned and was then associated with the school for many years.  The names of the children attending as at January 25 1854, supplied to the Denominational School Board, were discovered only recently by me, in research among early school records of the Victoria Government.

The names of the children were:
Ellen, Margaret, May and Patrick Leahy; Margaret Egan; Margaret, Judy and Mary O’Shea; Michael, Mary, Honorah and Annie Callahan; Thomas, John and Catherine Connol [sic Connell]; John, George, Elizabeth and Samuel Hopgood; Patrick, Denis, John and Thomas McNamara; Thomas Hogan; John and James Walsh; Catherine and Sarah Kane; Elizabeth, Joseph and Bridget Stewart; Patrick and James Deveraux; Catherine Wright; James, Edmond, Ellen Mary and John Toomey; John, Hugh, Bridget and Annie Duggan; John Ellen, Mary and Judy Kennedy.  There were also three Edwards, two Fields and three Byrons, but their christian names were never properly established.  A commentary of the conditions of the time is the fact that of all the names submitted – none of the children could ‘read or write.’

16th December, 1893 – The Express, Bacchus Marsh reported:

The Central Board of Health wrote that it was proposed to close the Church of England churchyard in Bacchus Marsh and the Roman Catholic churchyard at the lower end of the valley also, after three months notice. Cr. Dickie thought the R.C. graveyard need not be closed, as it was away from all population. Mr. T. Cain said he attended on behalf of the trustees of the old cemetery to oppose the closing. It was 2 acres in extent, and most of it maiden ground. It was one of the only two consecrated cemeteries in the colony, because it was an absolute gift from the late Mr. John Leahy. He had spent £250 there himself, and so had many others. He did not know of any reason why the Central Board should close the Cemetery against burials, nor did he think the Council knew of any; nor did he think there were any private complaints. The remains of many old pioneers were resting there, and it was his own wish to be buried there. He thought that was the general feeling of the Catholic body.  Cr. Purcell endorsed all that had been said. The R.C. cemetery, so far away from the present township, was no detriment to anybody, and he thought it should be kept open. He moved that the Council as local Board of Health, object to the R.C. cemetery being closed. Cr. Watson was in favour of that, but could they separate the Church of England one. Cr. Purcell did not see why the Church of England cemetery should be closed either. Cr. Meikle saw no reason for closing either of these cemeteries. The old cemetery in the heart of Melbourne nearly was still used for burials. It would be plenty of time in 50 years to come to get either of these cemeteries closed. The President suggested that the Council object to either cemetery being closed. Cr. Watson wanted to know if new graves were to be opened. Mr. Cain said yes, so far as the R.C. cemetery was concerned. Cr. Dickie said the Church of England cemetery was very different to the R.C. one, so far as new graves were concerned. Cr. Watson thought it did not matter much as to new graves, as there was the general cemetery open. Mr. Cain said the R.C. cemetery at Hopetoun was consecrated ground, and the public cemetery was not. From a religious point of view that was very important. He thought that the R.C. cemetery should remain open for burials as long as there was room, but the Church of England burial ground was quite different. It was in the centre of the township, and limited in area. He thought that should be open only to families having graves there now. Cr. Grant suggested communicating with the Central Board to know what reasons there were for closing either cemetery. He saw no reason why burials should be stopped in either cemetery. The custom was common in the old country to have these cemeteries near the church, and he saw no objection.  Cr. Dickie thought the two cemeteries should be dealt with separately. The law was that no new ground could be sold in these old cemeteries. Cr. Meikle moved that the Council oppose the closing of the R.C. Cemetery, at Hopetoun, as it was three miles from the township, and that the Council’s representative on the Board should oppose it. Seconded by Cr. McFarlane and carried by Cr. Meikle who said he would bring the matter before the Church of England people, so far as the graveyard in the township was concerned.

Recollections from Mary Thomas nee Boyes. Mary wrote these in January 2001 
From my earliest days the cemetery was a source of great interest and, dare I say, enjoyment.  My sister was seven years older than I.  At times, I was something of a loner and so found much in the cemetery to captivate me.  Mary Nutt and Alice Nagle were my favourite people and what tales I wove into my games there.  Perriwinkle creeper abounded around the foundations of the remains of the old church and I would sit there and dream.

One day, during the Second World War, when the Darley Military Camp was filled with American soldiers, two of those soldiers came across the hills behind our house, having taken a line from Darley across the hills to the highway hoping, no doubt, to escape from army life.  As they passed the cemetery they looked across and saw the name, ‘Mary Nutt’, and laughed and joked about ‘my friend’.  I can still remember the indignation I felt.

The two hawthorn trees on the fence line (Bacchus Marsh side) are very old.  My mother would pick armfuls of the blossoms to decorate our house when I was quite small, so they must be at least 65 years old.  There was an irrigation channel following that fence line in an adjoining paddock.  The irrigation water came down the hill beside our house then into a syphon and across under the road, and coming out at the north west corner of the cemetery it ran down the channel beside the cemetery and on to irrigate Clive Miller’s property, and I think, also the properties of Tom Connell and Gib Cowan.  On the front fence line of the cemetery there was a large pine tree from under which we used to gather pine cones for fuel for our fireplace.  This tree is no longer there.  We wonder if it was removed when roads were re-aligned.  It was certainly there in 1955 and my sister feels it was there at a later date but we both moved away at that time.  An old family photo of that time shows the pine tree in the background and the iron gate with the cross at the centre top section.  The same gate seems still to be there.  There is a very large cypress tree (near the hawthorns) which, over the years, has had large limbs break off and fall on the graves. I always felt intimidated by the immense size.  Inside the entrance gate near the pine trees there were two graves with post and rail surrounds to mark them.  Rabbits abounded in the cemetery and burrowed under and around the graves causing considerable damage.  It was not unusual for a rabbit to pop out from under the edges of some graves.  Many rose bushes grew in the cemetery.  Some were inside the grave enclosures, others were here and there in unmarked areas.

Both my sister, Nancy, and I recall a funeral taking place around the early 1940’s.  I was quite small and had never seen artificial grass before.  That memory of the funeral and the grass is still very clear.  Neither of us can be sure of the deceased person.

In the green booklet for the Anniversary Remembrance Service you quote Rev Cusworth’s ‘Pioneer Catholic Victoria’ thus: ‘in 1864, the Lerderderg River overflowed and the rough handmade bricks began to crumble ….. ‘ Reading those words today one would wonder how the river flood waters could inundate the cemetery but, in fact, today’s Lerderderg River takes a different course.  The original river flowed around the base of the hill and crossed the road just west of Symington’s house and the present old roadhouse of today. I recall reeds and rushes growing along the original course which was relatively close to the cemetery making it quite simple for the waters to engulf the cemetery in times of flood. After the river was re-aligned (possibly in the late 1920’s) a waterhole remained at the foot of the hill near Symington’s property.  A large gum tree on the bank crashed down across the waterhole and remained there for many years providing an exciting bridge for us youngsters.  Also on the bank another very large gum tree gave shelter to the cattle. The movement of the cattle around the tree caused a ring of earth to form.  My sister and I called this the ‘fairy tree’.  Passing swagmen found this tree offered excellent shelter for camping.  One careless fellow lit a fire too close to the tree and burnt the centre out of the trunk, but the tree lived on.  Subsequently many ‘swaggies’ camped right inside the hollowed out trunk.

There was a track around the foot of the hills from this tree to the Broadlands Estate homestead.  My father used to ride his horse back and forth from our home, immediately opposite the cemetery gate, to the homestead every day.  On one occasion he was riding his faithful horse, ‘Snowy’, home at dusk, along this track, when the horse dropped dead under him.  He walked back to the homestead, got a shovel and returned and buried the horse where it had fallen and then walked home. We had a very late tea that night.

As I have stated, we lived in a house opposite the cemetery gate.  This house was also made of hand made bricks with a slate roof.  It had originally been a hotel and a stopping place for the Cobb and Co coaches travelling between Melbourne and Ballarat.  The building was close to the road and had a cellar under the kitchen floor. In 1925 when my parents moved into this house, they used the cellar for a while but then covered the trapdoor to make the kitchen more convenient and safe.  It was in this building, while it was still a hotel, that the wake for Mary Nutt was held after her death on 9th August, 1888.

Behind our house ‘The Old Mill’ stood.  It was a large three storey building with a loft above running the length of the building under a slate roof.  It was also constructed from soft hand made bricks.  There was a large underground tank at the back corner which collected rain water from the roof of the building.  This mill was originally a flour mill and later became a cheese factory.  It was also used for social occasions.  In its later years it was a storage place for hay and a haven for pigeons and swagmen, many of whom had to be moved on, sometimes forcibly.  The passage of time and lack of maintenance meant that the mill gradually fell into a sad state and had to be demolished because of its dangerous condition.  Timber and bricks had been removed from the building for various projects over the years before demolition.

A few yards from the cemetery fence on the Melbourne side there was an old cow shed and dairy.  The area from the cemetery to the Pyrites (now Coimadai) Creek on the south side of the road and from the old mill to the Pyrites on the north side, made up one of the share farms on Broadlands Estate.  The Leahy’s old home was the farmhouse for that section. For many years the cows were milked in the shed by the cemetery but then a new milking shed was built behind Leahy’s house on the other side of the road. The old cow shed and dairy by the cemetery became the home for two bachelor brothers (Hansons) who also worked on Broadlands.  Actually, from 1916 to 1928, my grandparents (Boyes) worked this dairy and some of their children attended the Djerriwarrh School which was on the south side of the road (highway) at Deep Creek.  An old rusty iron gate remained for many years marking that school entrance. Behind the new dairy at Leahy’s house there was a lovely grove of old mulberry trees and many a bucket of fruit I picked from there.  Mushrooms abounded on the flats and were picked and sold.

When I was a child wild horses roamed the hills behind our home and the Symington home next door but during the early years of the Second World War they were rounded up, broken in and used by the army.

Some gold prospecting was done in the hills at the back of Miller’s estate but this was abandoned due, I suppose, to lack of success.  I remember being taken by my father to the old mine on two separate occasions.  Once we walked and the other time we went in the jinker.

There were times of excitement down our end of town.  One time a truck loaded with petrol blew up as it was going up Anthony’s Cutting.  Another time some cows, down on the flat towards Anthony’s Cutting, were struck by lightning and killed.

I have not included anything about the Symington property as I believe someone is doing a history of that. It was a magical place to me and to see it now upsets me.

I remember my first day going to school at Bacchus Marsh No 28.  I had a bicycle but that day my mother took me and we rode in state on Mick Shea’s horse drawn milk cart.

Mary Thomas


by Geoffrey Camm  7th October, 2000

Did they cling together on those ships
That sailed from Ireland’s shore,
From Tipperary, Galway, Cork,
Kilkenny, Tullamore?
To face an untamed country,
To clear and plough the land,
Did they cling together here at Hopetoun
In communal comfort, hand with hand?
Perhaps they greeted miners
Trudging westward with their teams,
Catching news of Erin, family, friends,
Sharing tea or beer or dreams.
For their hearts were with their homeland,
In its music, song and dance,
In the rain-drenched, wind-swept country-side,
The famine, faith, romance.
Did they cling together battling
Against drought and fire and flood,
Forging farms in a harsh country,
Creating it with sweat and blood?
A new Hibernia free of tyranny,
Free of poverty and hate
Where every man could start afresh
Side by side with his life-mate.
Did they cling together in their grief
When they found their infants dead:
James, Jeremiah, Mary, Bridget,
Michael, Thomas, Margaret, Ed?
Yet they never lost their courage,
Knowing comfort in their faith,
They worked the land, they grew their crops,
Raised stock and lived with death.
And now they lie together:
Shea and Finnin, Ryan, Daly,
McClusky, Griffith, Connell, Bowe
With their countrymen and comrades
Effaced by time, beyond life’s woes.
The tombstones now remaining
Remind us of our due:
Our history and future,
To honour what stays true.

Jill Braithwaite, a committee member and ‘resident rose pruner’, provided this interesting record of the 150th Anniversary Remembrance Service at the cemetery, Saturday 11th November, 2000.img_3260

Rain, swishing and swooshing of tyres on wet roads… perhaps not your usual Saturday afternoon in Bacchus Marsh: this was a special Saturday – November 11th, Armistice Day – and a group was gathered at the Hopetoun Catholic Cemetery to celebrate the one-hundred-and-fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of the Church of St Laurence O’Toole.

It was on 16th October, 1850, that Bishop Goold dedicated the Church.  This was before Gold; a decade or so before the Selection Act and we had no separate identity as ‘Victoria’: we were the Port Phillip District part of the colony of New South Wales.  I wonder what those early settlers saw?  Many of the graves mark colonists who were Irish-born: perhaps the green fertile valley with its steep descent made them catch their breath and think of home.  A flour mill, a smattering of hotels [including John Leahy’s] lay across to the right at the bottom of the steep, treacherous hill.  John Leahy, who is buried at Hopetoun, contributed handsomely to the Church with land and money.

This area, then called Tipperary Flats, must have been busy and thriving – or else why build the Church, the hub, the focus there?  Bacchus’s Marsh [we had an extra ‘s’ then!] was further westward – nearer to Captain Henry Bacchus’s Manor House. Captain Bacchus, an Anglican, is represented at Hopetoun by his pulley worker, John Densley, who is buried in the graveyard.  No doubt some of the graves hold those who helped build the Church.  November 11th, 2000 provided a vastly different perspective on the church of St Laurence O’Toole, Hopetoun, at Tipperary Flats. One-hundred-and-fifty years later there’s a scattering of bright orange, hand-made bricks, some two-hundred-and-fifty graves, thirteen tombstones, a few circles of rocks placed lovingly around some graves, and several significant trees.

The service began with Father Brian Glasheen blessing the graves and the ruins of the Church: these were further sanctified by red roses and lavender from the garden of a descendant of Stephen Whelan [who is buried at Hopetoun].  Father Brian and his servers managed very well, despite the rain [soft and fine, fortunately not wind-driven.]  A bay-tree was planted to mark the Anniversary: the significance off the tree is ‘victory over death’.  This admirably complements the handsome yews which represent the soul reaching up to heaven and the full-flowering hawthorns – ‘ever-loved’.  Many were moved by the knowledge that Father Brian’s servers and the children who helped plant the tree, are all descendants of people buried in the cemetery.  This continues the tradition that some of the same local families have established in the preservation of the graveyard.

Mr Geoffrey Camm, local identity and author of note, impeccable in his soft beret, gave a rousing speech in which he spoke colourfully of the lives of the pioneers and his own feelings for the graveyard.  Mr Camm suitably embellished his own thoughts with passages from Thomas Gray’s Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and he honoured us with a reading of his own poem, Hopetoun, which he wrote specifically for this occasion.  One of the anecdotes Mr Camm recounted was the story of Mary Nutt’s funeral ….Mary’s wake was held at the nearby Leahy’s hotel – as things got relaxed and rowdy, her bark coffin caught fire from the nearby tapers….

The committee for the Preservation of Hopetoun Cemetery felt that the service was a great success.  Several travelled to be with us – over one hundred and twenty signed the Visitor’s Book.  We were very pleased to have Joanne Duncan [MP for Gisborne] and Cr Rex Thorburn present, and of course it was an honour to have the company of so many descendants of those who lived near or who were buried at Hopetoun. Lively stories were swapped, there was a multitude of  ‘Do you remembers….’ and we were grateful that we could adjourn to the service-station across the way for afternoon tea and even more talking!

It is a tribute to the endurance of these pioneers, and the depth of the roots they established in this alien soil, that some of the names on the surviving headstones still endure in the Marsh today.  And rain??  Well, who cares! It nourishes the trees – and the sweet-scented pink rose that grows there [from a slip brought out from Ireland…] Rain? No, it was definitely more of a very, very appropriate Irish mist.  DEFINITELY!!

It is fitting to end with a passage from Bishop Goold’s Diary.  On Sunday, September 30th, 1855 [five years after he dedicated the Church] he writes:  ‘…At one o’clock under heavy rain I set out for Bacchus’s Marsh [after saying Mass at Mt Blackwood] where I arrived after a tedious and laborious journey over six miles of the worst road I have ever been on.  A most barren country.  After the first six miles the country and road improved.  The Penton Hills [sic], which it passes present a magnificent appearance, the land is rich and undulating, without timber; a great many farms have been purchased and are being enclosed.  It was after eight o’clock when dinner was ready….’

Tombstones at the Hopetoun Cemetery
Tombstones for the following names were erected at the cemetery and have survived to this date: Nagle, McCullagh, Cain, Hally, Connell, McClusky, Dunbar, Bowe, Ryan, Byrne, Shea, Griffith, Finnin, Daly, Leahy, Dowling, Carter, McCormack, McNamara, Nutt and O’Shea

Names the cemetery has been known by as found on death certificates:
Bacchus Marsh Catholic Burial Ground
Bacchus Marsh Catholic Chapel
Bacchus Marsh Catholic Ground
Bacchus Marsh Catholic Cemetery Hopetoun
Bacchus Marsh Roman Catholic Burial Ground
Bacchus Marsh Roman Catholic Cemetery
Bacchus Marsh Old Roman Catholic Chapel Yard
Bacchus Marsh Old Roman Catholic Church Yard
Bacchus Marsh Roman Catholic Chapel Yard
Hopetoun Bacchus Marsh Cemetery
Hopetoun Roman Catholic Cemetery
Hopetoun Cemetery (Bacchus Marsh)
Roman Catholic Burial Ground (Bacchus Marsh)
Roman Catholic Cemetery (Bacchus Marsh)
Roman Catholic Chapel Yard (Bacchus Marsh)
Roman Catholic Church Yard (Bacchus Marsh)