Thomas, Samuel, Margaret GRIFFITH

Thomas Griffith                       1863-1866

Samuel Griffith                        1865-1866

Margaret Griffith                     1829-1902

Veronica Fitzgerald provided the following information on her Griffith family:

‘Richard Griffith and Margaret Carey were married in 1850 in the Registry Office in Carlow Town, Co Carlow, Ireland.  Richard was 18 and Margaret was 20.

Richard Griffith came from a farming family in Johnswell, near the city of Kilkenny. Margaret’s family were publicans, and ran a pub in Old Leighlin, Co Carlow.  They emigrated to Australia in about 1853, leaving the port of Liverpool with their two year old daughter, Eliza, aboard the ship ‘Genghis Khan’.  Arriving in Melbourne three months later, they first settled at Keilor, Victoria, where there was a large Irish community.  Both had family members in the area, and Richard found work there on Overnewton farm.  Two of their sons were born in the Overnewton gatehouse where the family lived for a time.

Some time later, around 1857, Richard joined the team building the sandstone bridge over the Djerriwarrh Creek between Bacchus Marsh and Melton.  He and Margaret and their growing family (they eventually had nine children altogether) lived nearby in a tent and their second daughter, Margaret, was born there.

Eventually, Richard obtained a grant of 30 acres of crown land on the western side of the Djerriwarrh Creek.  There were conditions attached to this grant, i.e. pumpkins and six acres of vines were to be planted.  The season and/or the soil were not conducive to grape-growing, with vines withering and dying, and the failed pumpkin crops were rolled into the Djerriwarrh Creek and floated away!  However Richard was a resourceful man and developed other farming pursuits over time, including raising cattle and pigs.  The Djerriwarrh community was a strong one at this time with families socialising and helping each other.

Richard built their first home from slabs of local timber which he cut and split himself: a tiny home by modern standards, but they managed to bring up their large family there. They farmed the land and had an orchard along the creek, as did other neighbouring farmers.  As time went by, Richard and Margaret and their descendants gradually acquired some small adjacent properties and built up their farm naming it ‘Rose Glen’.  Subsequent generations have continued the farming tradition at ‘Rose Glen’ right through to the present day.

In those early days, nomadic Aboriginal people passed through at various times, their children playing with the Griffith children until it was time to move on.

Like most people of their era, Richard and Margaret had their share of hard times, including the deaths of two young sons from infectious diseases, possibly diphtheria, in the space of two days.  Richard himself made the two small coffins, and the family brought them for burial in the Hopetoun Cemetery.  Margaret and baby William (the youngest of the family) rode in the horse drawn cart beside the coffins, with Richard and the remaining children walking alongside.  Their graves are unmarked; they possibly are in the same grave as their mother, Margaret, whose headstone still stands.  Richard is buried in the Anglican section of the Bacchus Marsh Cemetery at Maddingley.

Their remaining children grew to be as resourceful and adventurous as their parents must have been, travelling as they did with a small child to begin a completely new life in a country far from home, with the knowledge that they quite likely would not hear from their Irish families, let alone ever see them again.

Eliza, the eldest of their children, set off with three of her brothers, John, Richard and Lewis, in the 1890’s, to the goldfields in Western Australia.  They travelled by boat to Esperance, and then with a horse and cart made their way to the Kalgoorlie area. Eventually they established ‘St Patrick’s Lease’, a small goldmine between Kalgoorlie and Norseman.  After some time, John returned to Bacchus Marsh due to ill health and, after a supposedly successful operation, died.  He is buried in the Catholic section of the Bacchus Marsh Cemetery, next to the grave where his brother, William and his wife, Catherine (Shea), and his nephews, Richard and William (Bill) and Bill’s wife, Mary (Casey) are buried.  Eliza, Richard and Lewis are buried in the Karakatta cemetery in Perth.

Patrick married Ellen O’Callaghan of Kyneton and went to Gippsland, dairy farming, while Margaret married Samuel Bowler, and lived in Melbourne.

William Griffith, the youngest of the nine, remained on the original Rose Glen settlement, farming the property.  He married Catherine Shea and together they had four children: Richard (who died in a road accident just a few months after marrying Josephine Quilter.  There were no children.)  The second son, William (Bill) married Mary Casey who was from Toolern Vale and they remained on ‘Rose Glen’ for the rest of their lives.  Bill died at home only metres from where he was born.  Bill was a hard worker and truly enjoyed (most of) the farming life.  It wasn’t just a job for him; he had a great interest in and knowledge of farming practices and bush life in general.  Bill continued to grow crops, raise sheep and, until the 1970’s, milk cows and maintained an active involvement in the farm, alongside his sons, until his early 90’s.

During his younger years he met with a few incidents with the potential to severely damage one’s health.  Luckily his strong constitution enabled a full recovery from things such as rheumatic fever at 17 (this usually damages the heart), a fractured skull following a fall from his bike, and being struck by lightning when in his 20s.  The lightning strike occurred when he and his brother, Dick, were on horseback, bringing a herd of cattle from one part of the farm to another.  A storm descended and Bill and his horse took shelter under a tree.  A bolt of lightning struck the tree, the horse and Bill too.  The horse was killed instantly and Bill collapsed.  Fortunately Dick was close by, and on finding Bill was having difficulty breathing and looking blue, managed to get him on to a horse and led him up the hill to home.  According to the doctor Bill would have died had Dick not sat him up so quickly enabling his breathing to restart.

Bill and Mary during their long lives at ‘Rose Glen’ worked the farm and brought up their family of seven – Carmel, Bill, Pat, Margaret, Brendan, John and Veronica.  There are 24 grandchildren and, at the time of printing, 31 great grandchildren.  Bill had a great interest in his family history and in the lives of his forebears.  Most of this knowledge was stored in his amazing memory.  Fortunately he passed on this history, telling many interesting and sometimes hilarious stories of life in times gone by.  One of the great highlights of his life was a trip to Ireland with Mary and Brendan and Veronica (son and daughter) when he was in his eighties to connect with Griffith relatives and to see the house where his grandfather was born.

Bill had a strong sense of history and of the importance of maintaining places such as the Hopetoun Cemetery, where his grandmother and two uncles are buried.  When the current Western Freeway was in the planning stages, it came to Bill’s attention that the new road was to go through the southern end of the cemetery.  Bill contacted a member of the Victorian State Government, Vance Dickie, (a Bacchus Marsh local) and campaigned successfully for a realignment of the road, as the cemetery was of significant historical importance to many local families, including his own.  This was supported by members of the local community, and fortunately, Mr Dickie himself, and the road was rerouted around the cemetery land.  Bill continued, throughout his long life, to care for the cemetery, supported by his family who still help with this maintenance today.

William and Catherine’s third son, John, married Eileen Whelan from Brunswick.  They had five children, Kieran, Noel (dec 2015), Moyna, and Gary and Maureen (both of whom died in early childhood).  There are several grandchildren and great grandchildren.  John (Jack) farmed with Bill at Rose Glen before buying a dairy farm at Tatura in the early 1960’s.

Catherine Griffith, the youngest of William and Catherine’s children married George Vallence from Bacchus Marsh. They had three children, Richard, George and Catherine. There are several grandchildren and great grandchildren.