THE BLAIRS OF ESSENDON, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA- AND DR.JOHN BLAIR.
Dr John Blair will be discussed at the end of this journal. One source stated that he was William Allison Blair's son and I must confess that I had similar thoughts when I found out about his involvement at Blairgowrie. The details provided by Bob Chalmers make it highly unlikely that he was related to either of our Essendon pioneers.
Alexander and William Allison Blair were early settlers in the Essendon area and it is unknown whether they were related. I have been unable to find much about either family on genealogical websites. Alexander Blair has been described as a farmer of Flatfield, Saltwater River, Essendon. In one newspaper article, his farm was referred to as Floodfield, a name unlikely to attract buyers if you wanted to sell it! At first, I thought Flatfield might have been in Braybrook Nth Township,(the part of Avondale Heights including Clarendon St and bounded by the river and Glenside St) but a check proved this to be wrong. Then I thought of Main's Estate, and this guess was correct.
Alexander Blair had probably been leasing Flatfield from the grantee, J.P.Main, for some time before he bought about 50 acres from him for 2700 pounds 10 shillings on 27-5-1857. This land, lot 5, was on the north side of Rosehill Rd between Steeles Creek and Hoffmans Rd , its northern boundary indicated by the end of Albert St (Melway 27 K1.) Alexander mortgaged it to John Catto on the next day for 1000 pounds. I believe Alexander became insolvent; he never regained the title from Catto. Although the early 1860's have never been mentioned in the same breath as the 1890's or 1930's as a time of depression, many lost their properties at this time (such as Ralph Ruddell of Tuerong and Victoria's first manufacturer of bellows, Joseph Porta.) Catto sold the farm to Dugald McPhail (of Rose Hill)for 630 pounds on 6-7-1861. McPhail sold it to William Hoffman at a 120 pound profit on 16-3-1868. As Dugald McPhail was a neighbour, he probably let Alex and his SPEEDY wife remain on the farm; it will be of interest to compare the dates of Dugald's sale of the farm and of the death of Alexander's ailing wife, which I think was also in 1868. Alex and Dugald were two of the stalwarts of St John's, Essendon.
Although I had seen the name Blair on the Essendon and Hawstead map years ago, it had not made much impression on me because I was concentrating on the area north of Glass St. When I started researching Mornington Peninsula History, W.A.Blair became a centre of attention. Lime burning was from the late 1830's the industry between Boneo Rd, Rosebud, and the Heads. The widowed Mrs Rowley had married Kenyon and they had possibly come across from Van Dieman's Land to burn lime for J.P.Fawkner. The Skeltons, Kettle, Robert Rowley and Henry Cadby Wells, the Sullivans and Owen Cain of "Tyrone" were some of the others who set up kilns soon after.Later others, such as Edward Russell, many of whom had jumped ship, set up their own kilns. They had licences from the Crown for their lime stations but when the land in Wannaeue and Nepean parishes was alienated, William Allison Blair bought up huge tracts of land in Rosebud West and around Rye. By sheer coincidence, most of his grants had a kiln on them; he was trying to create a monopoly! As a result most of the lime burners lost their income with only the Cains and Sullivans surviving in this trade.In Lime Land Leisure, C.N.Hollinshed stated that William Allison had built Navarno at Essendon. No doubt, he meant Ngarveno, in the street of that name, but it was not only his spelling that was wrong- as you will see.
There were, to my knowledge, four family members named William Allison Blair, the third died as a baby and his replacement died in WW1. As well as being a lime merchant William Allison had a farm in Braybrook 200 yards from the Saltwater River, presumably on the south side of the river because the burning of his haystacks was caused by some boys from Footscray. (The farm was, as later information shows, on the site occupied by the Medway Golf Club.) W.A. lived at Netherlea at the corner of Hoddle St and Buckley St, Essendon. This became Essendon Technical School; since 2000 this has become a housing estate with a street named after John Coleman(who became a Bombers champion thanks to Hastings!)
A. 1-7-1852 p.5. A meeting was held at Thomas Armstrong's "Coalville" to consider the best means to erect a place of public worship in the parish of Doutta Galla. Alex. Blair was unanimously elected to the chair. Details of the meeting and of those attending can be found in my journal, REV. JOHN REID RUFFLES FEATHERS.
A. 2-7-1853, p.3. DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE. The chairmsn, Mr Blair, Dr Pearce and Messrs Young and Williamson were appointed a committee to forward the erection of a manse at St John's, Doutta Galla as speedily as possible.
A.30-7-1853 p.4.At St John's Presbyterian Church, Doutta Galla, Robert Rogerson married Christina, daughter of Alexander Blair of FLOODFIELD, Saltwater River, Doutta Galla. The parish of Doutta Galla extends from West Melbourne to Sharps Rd, Tullamarine and is between the Saltwater (Maribyrnong) River and the Moonee Ponds Creek.
A. 25-5-1855 p.3, 2nd last column. Alexander Blair, proprietor, advertised the sale of a lease of "Flatfield".He had crops on 66 acres so he was obviously farming lot 6 as well as lot 5. If it had not been sold by 21 May, the lease would be sold by auction at the sale of Mr Main's Springbank Estate. (It was this advertisement, found by chance while looking for references to Peter Young, that compelled me to write the Blair of Essendon journal.) This item confirms my theory of the location of "Flatfield". The Springbank Estate, by far the biggest portion of Main's Estate, joined Flatfield on the north. It was purchased by James Wilson and later farmed for many years by James Anderson of Keilor.
A. 6-3-1856 page 5. Alexander Blair of Flatfield occupied the chair at a meeting to discuss the call of St John's minister, Rev. John Reid, to North Melbourne.
A. 2-9-1856, p.8, column 6. Rev. John Reid said that the false accusations made against him could be disproved by documents provided by Alexander Blair Esq. of Flatfield. (See REV. JOHN REID RUFFLES SOME FEATHERS journal.)
A.1-4-1858 p.8. "Working bullocks-for sale, four quiet bullocks (all leaders) with yokes, bows and chains. Apply to Alex. Blair, near Hainson's Punt across the Saltwater River, on the Geelong road.
It will be hard for you to believe that the above advertisement cost me three hours! I had a fair idea where the punt would be, but I just had to investigate this Hainson fellow. Then, having found that Hainson did not have the punt, and that Queenstown was probably where Alex was based, I went looking for a Cut Cut Paw parish map to confirm where section 7 was. And that is how I discovered exactly where WILLIAM ALLISON BLAIR died!
Firstly the punt. Alex Blair's Flatfield was fairly close to the original Geelong Road. This route was along Macedon (Mt Alexander) road to Braybrook Road (Buckley St west, Essendon)and west to the end of Canning St, Avondale Heights. They would deviate slightly to the north into Rose Hill to cross Rose Creek (Steele's Creek)
and probably then took a bee-line across unfenced paddocks to Solomon's ford (Melway 27 B8.) It seemed like a good idea for the Government to establish the Township of Braybrook on this well-established route in 1850. But it was in the same year that Joseph Raleigh opened a punt that led to both Maribyrnong Rd and Epsom Rd being called Raleigh's Punt Road. The Township of Braybrook, partly in Doutta Galla and partly in Cut Cut Paw, was stillborn. In 1851, a timber bridge was built at Keilor but it lasted only until the next downpour, with the result that "the great road to the diggings" was through Tullamarine and Bulla until Brees' bridge was built at Keilor in 1854. A punt had operated at Keilor in the interim. Those travelling to the Ballarat diggings extensively used Raleigh's Punt until Brees' bridge was built and then went through Keilor and along Ballarat Rd (Keilor-Melton Highway.)
These advances did little to help Geelong- bound travellers. Then Michael Lynch established a punt on present racecourse land at the top left corner of Melway 42 F3. Racecourse Rd was known as Geelong Road and a road parallel to Smithfield Rd and probably 200 metres north took travellers to the punt. As I have a mountain of notes on about 20 topics, I do not have time to find when he first set up the punt or why he moved it to the line of Smithfield Rd (which got its name because the first recorded race meeting in England was held at Smithfield Market.)He had the punt and his Punt Inn going by 1853. By 1856, C.J.HARRISON (not Hainson!) was calling for tenders for a brick dwelling (which hopefully has been preserved.) Alex. was near HARRISON'S PUNT!
I am guessing that Alex Blair was on the western side of the river where Queenstown was being subdivided into farms of about 10 acres on part of section 7, Cut Cut Paw. Apparently not making much money from Flatfield, he might have been using the bullocks to cart bluestone from quarries for Wills etc. to Spottiswoode's craft. (Did you notice the origin of the name of Spotswood?)
And where did WILLIAM ALLISON BLAIR die? On Medway Golf Course. William bought land including the golf course from the grantee, Judah Solomon in 1858. It was sold to Thomas Williamson in 1901. Information supplied by Bob Chalmers of the Essendon Historical Society, which will be given verbatim later, shows that both Alex.Blair and William A.Blair died at Maidstone.(Environmental History of Maribyrnong, vol.2 pages 6-7.)
A. 24-7-1858 p.8. "Two first rate farms for sale, on Steel's Ponds, near the Saltwater River six miles from Melbourne. The proprietors, Messrs Alex. Blair and James Laverty, in whose occupation they now are, offer them together or separately, comprising 54 and 50 acres respectively, fenced and cultivated, with buildings on each.
The very desirable farms have good black soil and are watered by the ponds running through them, situate adjoining the land recently sold by Mr Watkins and that on which Mt William Hoffman has built his residence."
The two farms were on the north side of Rosehill Rd and separated by Steeles Creek.Laverty had bought the western farm, lot 6 of Main's Estate from the Bears on 21-10-1848. It is likely that both Laverty and Blair were experiencing financial problems; the former mortgaged lot 6 on 21-10-1858 about three months after the advertisement appeared. James Laverty owned the Springvale Estate (on the south side of Keilor Rd between Webber Pde and Milleara Rd; John Laverty (his son) was charged with abandoning the North Pole Inn, which was on the west corner of "The Essendon Road". I had presumed that this road would have been Hoffmans Rd but details of the sale of "Springvale" re frontage and acreage make it certain that the Essendon Road was Milleara Rd (known as North Pole Rd until 1947 in Keilor rate records.)
Peter Somerville maintained that North Pole Rd got its name from the icy winds that swept along it but it was far more likely that there were two poles marking the location of access ramps to Solomons Ford at the end of Canning St, one on the north and another on the south. (A source about the Cut Cut Paw parish, which includes Braybrook, referred to South Pole Road- probably Duke St.) If Milleara Rd led to Braybrook, why was it not called Braybrook Rd? It would have been too confusing because Buckley St was called Braybrook Rd!
The 1856 electoral roll makes it appear that James Laverty was calling the North Pole Inn the Harvest Home Hotel, but this was not the case. Edward Fegan was running the North Pole and the Harvest Home was on J.P. Bear's subdivision of James McNae's farm, just south of Dean's Hotel on the Dean St corner in Moonee Ponds.
It is almost certain that Mr Watkins' farm which he had just sold was lot 7, the southern third of Springbank, immediately north of Alex. Blair's lot 5; Watkins had probably sold it to James Wilson, who had bought the northern 2/3 of Springbank earlier, after running the Golden Fleece Hotel at Pentridge (Coburg.) William Hoffman was involved in Main's Estate but his land adjoining the Blair/ Laverty farms was Butzbach, which extended east from Hoffmans Rd to about Hedderwick St. The house that Hoffman had just built was near Croft St (Melway 28 B2) and accounts for the bend in Price St.The Crofts renamed Butzbach as "Buckley Park".
Hoffman, who had probably been living at "Laluma" nearer to Essendon, had probably just moved onto Butzback and built a grand house. Soon after receiving his grants, he had leased the farm to Alexander Earle McCracken, who had returned to England in 1857 because of the poor health of his wife, Jane.
A.28-3-1866 p.4. John Kirk, son of the late Robert Kirk of Scotland, married Jessie, the fifth daughter of Alexander Blair, Saltwater River.
A. 26-10-1868 p.4. Elizabeth Speedy, the wife of Alexander Blair, died at her residence, Saltwater River.She had endured a long illness before her death at the age of 65. She was a native of Forfarshire, Scotland. It could be presumed that Elizabeth was Janet Young's daughter.
A. 27-10-1868 P.8. The funeral of the wife of Alexander Blair was to leave his residence, Saltwater River.
A. 3-3-1871. Alexander Blair had died on the 2nd at his residence, Saltwater River, aged 72.
A. 3-3-1871 p.8. The funeral of Alexander Blair was to leave his late residence, Saltwater River.
A. 19-7-1871 page 8. The funeral of Mrs Janet Young was to leave the home of her son-in-law, Mr Blair, Saltwater River. She had obviously been living with her daughter and son in law, but both of them had died before her. I WONDER IF JANET WAS RELATED TO PETER YOUNG OF NAIRN.
WILLIAM ALLISON BLAIR.
A= The Argus.
A. 29-9-1855, p.7. The dissolution of the partnership of Forrest Hay, John Thompson and William Blair, merchants was announced.
A 1-12-1856 p.4. The wife of William Allison Blair had a son at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne.)See 19-5-1858.
A 23-9-1857 p.4. The wife of W.A.Blair had given birth to a daughter at Wattle Bank, Essendon.
A 19-5-1858 p.4. William Allison, only son of William Allison Blair, died at Essendon aged 18 months.
A 20-12-1865, p.4.Margaret Allison, 2nd daughter of William Allison and Isabella Blair had died.
A. 14-2-1867, p.7. A netter to the Essendon-Flemington council from W.A.Blair was not read because it was disrespectfully worded.
A 9-1-1869 p.6. Charles Gavan Duffy accused William Allison Blair of employing dummies. Because the Land Act was intended to break up large holdings, those such as Blair, who had quite opposite intentions' would naturally be suspected of getting friends to buy crown allotments on their behalf. David Swan, another dispossessed lime-burner earned valuable income fencing Blair's property and would be willing to assist his schemes. Charles Gavan Duffy became an Irish hero because of his fight for land for yoeman farmers there and continued his efforts in Victoria. It was because of a battle between Blair and Duffy over another allotment that S.S.Crispo suggested that the disputed piece of land be declared a village (Sorrento!)
A. 15-7-1875, p.7. W.A.Blair is listed as a director of the City of Melbourne Bank Ltd.
A 17-4-1880 p.1. At Netherlea,James Boyd of Ballarat married Lizzie Ewart, eldest daughter of William Allison Blair.
A. 7-5-1887, p.2. A sale of W.A.Blair's land in the city was advertised.
A 26-4-1888, p.1. William Allison, elder son of W.A.Blair of Netherlea, had married Minnie Waters, younger daughter of J.M.Peck of Lebanon, Pascoevale. (The elder daughter had married Alexander McCracken of "North Park", the foundation President of the V.F.L.) William and Minnie's son was described at being born at Pascoe Vale. This could have been at Lebanon or at the house, which Peck was said to have built for a daughter and which was later called Cook's Homestead. Illegally demolished, it was on the site now occupied by Red Rooster, across the footbridge from Mascoma St, Strathmore. "Lebanon" still stands in Wendora St.
A.10-9-1894, p.5. The will of Isabella Blair of Buckley St, Essendon is detailed. Mabel Blair was given the Braybrook farm, which we now know was, or included, the Medway Golf Course. Minnie Ann Blair was described as her daughter, but she was a daughter-in-law, being the daughter of John Murray Peck and the wife of Isabella's son, William Allison Blair.
A 15-1-1938 p.4. HOMESTEAD HOME FOR SCHOOL.This article had a picture of Netherlea, which was to be demolished for the construction of Essendon Technical School.
A 19-1-1957 p.24. John Ronald, son of the late William Allison and Isabella Blair of Netherlea, Essendon had died at Kardinia House, Geelong.
OTHER SOURCES. Sgt. William Allison Blair, son of William Allison and Minnie Waters Blair, was killed in action on 16-2-1917, his age recorded on the grave as 27. He was born at Pascoe Vale and enlisted at Essendon. ("Lest We Forget", which gave his parents' address wrongly as "Meruda".) The "A.I.F. Project" adds the following details. William attended Scotch College and had been a stock and Station agent at Dookie before enlisting on 29-7-1915 with the rank of sergeant. His father was described as Captain William Allison Blair of "Mernda", 42 Jolimont Terrace, Jolimont.He was 26 and single when he embarked and died at Armientieres, while serving with C Company of the 38th Battalion at the age of 28.
The farm at Braybrook was probably the one, including the Medway Golf Course, which William Allison Blair bought from the grantee,Judah Solomon, in 1858. It was sold to Thomas Williamson in 1901. The first clubhouse on the golf course was the house built by Solomon or Blair. (Environmental History of Maribyrnong.) The destruction of the deliberately lit haystack by the Footscray lads is detailed in The Argus (5-12-1889, p.9 and 31-12-1889 p.7.)
The following details about Alexander and William Allison Blair have been kindly supplied by Bob Chalmers of the Essendon Historical Society.
Great to see that you are still on the job with our history. Yes, I was aware of Alezander Blair's involvement at St John's. He chaired the important meeting at Thomas Armstrong's residence at which the Presbyterian Church was established. His farm was, as you stated, "Flatfield Farm, which was in section 12 north of Rosehill Road. He was born in Angus, Scotland in c1799, married and raised his family in Kettins, Angus and arrived in Port Phillip aged 50 in October 1849 accompanied by his wife Elizabeth (nee Speedy) and seven children- Margaret (21), Ellen (19), Euphemia (17), Christina (15), Janet (14), John (12), and Eliza (7) on the ship "Mahomed Shah". Christina married Robert Rogerson (son of William Rogerson), Eliza married a Robert Cherry, and Euphemia married James Bell- all from prominent families. Ellen (also known as Helen) married John McPhail, the step brother of Dugald McPhail and partner (on Miller's Farm) with James Bell. Jessie (probably referred to as Janet on the shipping record) married John Kirk. Elizabeth Blair (Speedy) died in 1868 aged 63 and Alexander died in Maidstone on 2-3-1871. His father was Alexander Blair and his mother Mary Duff. His will can be downloaded from PROV.
NOTES ON THE ABOVE. Having been alerted by Bob of the Maidstone connection, I discovered that Alex was a trustee of the Presbyterian Church in Maidstone (The Argus,11-1-1862, page 7, Government Gazette.) This seems to confirm my guess that his bullock team had been working on the Cut Cut Paw side of the Saltwater River.
WILLIAM ALLISON BLAIR.
William Allison Blair (no relation to the above) was born in Mearns, Renfrewshire, Scotland, to William Blair and Margaret Allison on 9-9-1821. He married Isabella Ewart (born Durham, England in 1827) in Gorbals (Glasgow) on 6-1-1850. The couple arrived in Australia on the Catherine Glen"in August 1853 together with a James Blair (presumably a 20 year old brother of William Allison. William Allison Blair was shown in the 1841 census as a tailor and in the 1851 census as a hat and cap manufacturer, a trade he took up after arriving in Australia. Willianm Allison Blair and Isabella Ewart had a large family, with 8 children born to them, firstly at Emerald Hill, Fitzroy and Collingwood, but later at Essendon, where Margaret was born in 1859. Three children died in infancy or early childhood. One of his daughters married James Boyd (who served on the Essendon council) and Blair and Boyd were both involved with the mining of lime. Isabella Blair died at Netherlea (Buckley St, Essendon) in 1894 and William Allison Blair died 27-9-1896 in Maidstone. There is more about William Allison Blair in "Fine Homes of Essendon and District".
NOTES ON THE ABOVE. William Allison Blair's death notice can be seen on page 1 of The Argus of 3-10-1896. It confirms that he died at Maidstone.
THE ESSENDON HISTORICAL SOCIETY IS FORTUNATE TO HAVE SUCH A DEDICATED HISTORIAN AS BOB CHALMERS. IT HAS PRODUCED A HUGE NUMBER OF BOOKS SO RESEARCHERS SEEKING DETAILS ABOUT THEIR FAMILIES' INVOLVEMENT IN THE AREA SHOULD CONTACT THE SOCIETY.
Dr John Blair.
LAUNCESTON EXAMINER 15-3-1887 P.2. Dr John Blair was born in Linlithgow, Scotland in 1835.
THE ARGUS 18-11-1876, page 9. Someone who was in a position to know stated that Dr John Blair was the real founder of the Alfred Hospital.
THE ARGUS 29-8-1921, page 1. Mary Hunter, the widow of Dr John Blair, died at the age of 83.
THE ARGUS 12-4-1930 PAGES 3S AND 6S AND 5-4-1930 PAGE 10S. Dr John Blair did not hold to the common view that aborigines were unintelligent. He adopted an aboriginal boy, which his wife Mary was not too keen about, but she soon grew to love him. The boy was named Lani after an Indian cook and was fondly remembered by friends of the Blair family. Lani died in 1900 (Argus 18-1-1900 page 1.)
BLAIRGOWRIE VILLAGE BY THE SEA, a pamphlet published by the Nepean Historical Society, states that Michael O'Grady built the mansion whose later name, Blaigowrie, was used for the settlement known firstly as Manners-Sutton and then Canterbury. (See Sidney Smith Crispo journal.) O'Grady built the stately home in 1874, naming it "Villa Maria" and following his death Dr Blair bought it in 1877 and gave it the name that translates as "field of goats" according to a genealogy website.
Blairgowrie was sold in 1887. (Argus 21-11-1887, page 2, column 7.)
on 2011-12-14 10:40:40
Itellya is researching local history on the Mornington Peninsula and is willing to help family historians with information about the area between Somerville and Blairgowrie. He has extensive information about Henry Gomm of Somerville, Joseph Porta (Victoria's first bellows manufacturer) and Captain Adams of Rosebud.