Wednesday, 17 January 2018

James Alfred Larwill, husband of Katie Mailer of ‘Glencairn’, Moreland

2nd Lieutenant James Alfred Larwill served with Aust Flying Corps. Image P0048.010. Image courtesy AWM. This was taken on 6 May 1919 when he arrived home. He’s on the left and Lieutenant John Rutherford Gordon MC is on the right.

Brisbane-born 2nd Lieutenant James Alfred Larwill served with the Australian Flying Corps. He embarked from Melbourne in June 1917 and returned in May 1919. After the war he attended the University of Melbourne’s Medical School and graduated in 1925. In that year he married Katie Mailer, younger sister of Holton Mailer. He had a practice in Geelong and lectured at the university in histology and embryology from 1945 until his sudden death in 1951. His wife Katie died in 1979 aged 82.

Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
National Archives of Australia, WW1 service records
Australian War Memorial image collection

Thursday, 11 January 2018

The Graves brothers of Coburg and Essendon

The Graves family lived at ‘The Grange’, Harding Street, Coburg (not to be confused with ‘The Grange’ at 39 Belgrave Street) but early on in World War One they moved to ‘Benalta’, Nimmo Street, Essendon, so the three sons who served are remembered as volunteers from both places. (Lenore Frost has written about them on her website The Empire Called And I Answered and they are remembered on the Coburg Town Hall Honour Board.)

Eric Ivo Graves was a doctor who served with Holton Mailer in the 11th Field Ambulance. Like Mailer, he was an old boy of Carlton College and in 1919, on his return from the war, he married Holton’s sister Ada. He died little more than a decade later, in 1931.

11th Field Ambulance Officers at Mitcham Camp, South Australia, prior to embarkation. Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel M.H. Downey, front row centre, Captain J.A. Love, back row centre, and Captain J.G. Sweeney, front row 2nd from right. Harold Frank Dunstan is second from left seated, Geoffrey Wien-Smith is in the back row, far right. Background information provided by Guy Dollman: 11th Field Ambulance officers; AWM roll number 26/54/1; embarked from Adelaide, South Australia on board HMAT A29 Suevic on the 31 May 1916. The eight men in the photo are: Michael Henry Downey (Green Hill Road, Parkside, SA - front middle); Harold Frank Dunstan (Helen Street, Croydon Park, SA); Eric Ivo Lowther Graves ('Benalta', Nimmo Street, Essendon, Victoria); John Alexander Love (Strathalbyn, SA - back middle); Melrose Holtom Mailer (Craig Rossie Avenue, Moreland, Victoria); John Francis Steart Murray (Goodwood Road, Clarence Park, SA); James Gladstone Sweeney (Nottingham Terrace, Glandore, SA - second from right in front); Geoffrey Wien-Smith (Clare, SA). Image PRG 280/1/18/84. Image courtesy State Library of South Australia.

Eric Graves’ brother 2807 Bombardier Hubert Stanley Graves, Division Ammunition Column, embarked in October 1914, served on the Gallipoli Peninsula and died of wounds in France on 13 December 1917.

Studio portrait of 2807 Battery Quartermaster Sergeant (BQMS) Hubert Stanley Graves, 12th Field Artillery Brigade. BQMS Graves, an auctioneer from Coburg, Victoria, enlisted in August 1914 aged 27. He died on 13 December 1917 of a bomb wound, resulting from an accident. Image courtesy AWM. Image P10789.001.

Another brother, 2155 Private Richard Reginald Ryres Graves, 5th Infantry Battalion, was an old boy of Coburg State School, and also of St Thomas Grammar School, Essendon. He embarked in June 1915, served at Gallipoli and later served in the 12th Brigade AFA in France. He died in 1943 aged 48.

Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
National Archives of Australia, WW1 service records
Australian War Memorial image collection
State Library of South Australia

Saturday, 6 January 2018

World War One Memorial Gates at Coburg Primary School

On the afternoon of Friday 10 November 2017, before the Old boys book was launched, the most amazing commemorative gates were launched at Coburg Primary School. Like the book, the gates were funded by the ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. They were created by local artist Margaret Christianson and you can see more of her marvellous artwork on her website and her Facebook page.  

If you haven’t already seen the gate, make sure you take a stroll down Elm Grove and take a look. Elm Grove runs between Bell Street and Urquhart Street and ends at the Glass Den Café, where, if you’re like me, you might just be forced to have a coffee! Or make your way through the former Pentridge Prison site to Pentridge Boulevard where you will find the Boot Factory Café – another favourite haunt of mine. 

 Peter Khalil MP, Member for Wills, speaking with Coburg Primary School Principal Jane Hancock. Peter officially 'launched' the gates.

Kelvin Thomson, President of Coburg Historical Society and former Member for Wills, with the creator of the gates, Margaret Christianson.

Principal Jane Hancock speaking at the gate ceremony.

Cheryl Griffin speaking at the gates ceremony.

Me making my speech at the gates ceremony. In the background you can just see the house I lived in from 1962 to 1968 - 512 Sydney Road, Coburg. It was then the Coburg Methodist parsonage. It's now part of Peppertree Place.

Past-President of Coburg Historical Society, Malcolm McIlvena about to present copies of  The old boys of Coburg State School go to Coburg Primary School.

The creator of the gates Margaret Christianson.

Margaret Christianson with Augustino from Coburg Primary School who helped make sure the gates were hung 'just right'.

Images sourced from:
Peter Khalil, MP for Wills’ Facebook page.
Coburg Historical Society’s Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s website.

This is the speech I gave when the gate was launched by Peter Khalil MP on Friday 10 November 2017 at Coburg Primary School:

Almost one hundred years ago a tree planting ceremony was held at the back of the Infant School (now the junior campus of Coburg Primary School) in the presence of local politicians and a group of visiting French dignitaries.

On that day (23 October 1918), an avenue of trees was planted in memory of 35 of the old boys of the school who died during World War One.

Over time the footprint of the school grounds changed and in the early 1960s the Soldiers’ Avenue disappeared when the carpark closest to the Leisure Centre was built.

It was not completely forgotten, however, and in May 1991 a memorial plaque was placed in the Infant School grounds.

Last year, Grades 2 to 6 students took part in an art project run by artist-in-residence Kelly Gatchell Hartley in which the avenue of trees was re-discovered and re-imagined through their art work.

And now, as a permanent memorial to the old boys who served and died, local artist Margaret Christianson has created these beautiful gates that give each of the 35 old boys who were remembered in the original avenue of trees a new place in the school’s history.

I hope that every day as you come through the gates, you stop and look at the wonderful tribute Margaret has created. I hope you think, too, about those boys who once sat in the same classrooms as you and me (I attended 484 Coburg, too) and played in the playground just like you and me. We are all part of the history of School number 484, so these young men who fought in that long ago war are as much a part of our story as anyone living today.

Cheryl Griffin, 10 November 2017

Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Old boys of Coburg State School go to war

One of the reasons I haven’t been adding to this blog for quite a while is that I was busy researching and writing The old boys of Coburg State School go to war for Coburg Historical Society.

This is the speech I gave when the book was launched by Richard Broome on Friday 10 November 2017 at the Coburg RSL:

Coburg Historical Society has in its collection a beautiful handwritten book that records the war service of 100 of the old boys of what was then known as Coburg State School. The compiler, whom I later discovered was George Hallam, a teacher at the school and the father of one of the old boy soldiers, noted that there were many more old boys who served, but by the time he began his work in the 1920s, he had difficulty gathering the material he needed to compile a full record of the old boys who served.

Move forward almost a hundred years to the time when the Australian Government announced its ANZAC Centenary Local Grants Program. Our then Member for Wills, Kelvin Thomson (now the CHS President) encouraged the Society to apply and it was then that I began to explore how a Coburg project based around the school’s Soldiers Book might take shape.

Our then President Malcolm McIlvena and the Historical Society committee agreed to my proposal and have supported it in its various phases: firstly the art project at the school, led by artist-in-residence Kelly Gatchell Hartley, then the creation and installation of Margaret Christianson’s beautiful Elm Grove memorial gates and finally the preparation of my written history, The old boys of Coburg State School go to war, that is being launched tonight.

We couldn’t have done any of this without the financial support of the ANZAC Centenary Local Grant we received, but equally we couldn’t have done it without the support of Coburg Primary School and in its principal Jane Hancock. I hope that the work we have done has added to the sense of history and heritage at this school that has existed on this site in one form or another for more than 160 years. Our aim was to give Jane and the school community a glimpse into the past life of the school and enrich their sense of what went before. And as a former pupil of the school, I appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the school’s history.

Although my name is on the cover as author, many people contributed to the book in so many ways.

Families shared anecdotes, letters, diaries, photographs and memories that have brought the stories of the old boys to life. So thank you to those of you who have come today because of a family connection.

Historian Rosalie Triolo contributed a section on the patriotic efforts of schools during the war. Max Waugh wrote on the cadet movement and is here tonight to help us celebrate.

And Richard Broome not only wrote about Coburg at the start of the war, but came along tonight to launch the book.

Members of the Historical Society have helped in many different ways, some reading drafts, others undertaking research and preparing briefs for the art and gate projects. And of course, Marilyn Moore and her launch team have worked hard to make sure that today’s events were a success.

The Coburg Library staff have supported us in whatever way they could and the RSL’s Kerri Marshall provided access to some of their precious original records and as you can see, the Coburg RSL has done us proud tonight.

Many, many thanks, too, to Craig Fryers of CDF Art Direction and Design who cheerfully took on this project and created a book out of the many images and the text I provided. The book looks great, Craig!

Finally, thanks to all of you for coming tonight. Your support means so much to me and to the Historical Society. Enjoy reading the book. Tell all your friends! And buy, buy, buy!

Something for the Christmas stocking, perhaps??

Cheryl Griffin, 10 November 2017

Peter Khalil MP, Kelvin Thomson (President, Coburg Historical Society) and Richard Broome (launcher of the book).

 Peter Khalil MP getting his book signed by yours truly.

 Moreland Mayor John Kavanagh looks on while I sign a book for Ron Doig, family member of old boys David and John Doig who are remembered in the book.

Moreland Mayor John Kavanagh speaks as CHS President Kelvin Thomson looks on.

Here I am making the speech you've just read.

Richard Broome, author of Coburg between two creeks, launching the book. In his speech Richard described me as a 'forensic historian'. He's not wrong. If there's even the hint of a lead, I'll follow it until it can't be followed any more!  

There I am again - still talking!

Images sourced from:

Peter Khalil, MP for Wills’ Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s Facebook page.

Coburg Historical Society’s website. You will find more photos of the book launch here.

Thanks, Craig Fryers, for the terrific promo!

You can buy a copy of the book from Coburg Historical Society. (Only $20) Add $15 for postage and handling, if you want it mailed to you. Or buy in person at the Bluestone Cottage Museum, 82 Bell Street, Coburg (for opening details see the Historical Society’s website).

Contact Coburg Historical Society to order your copy:

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Major Melrose Holton Mailer MC

Melrose Mailer, son of Coburg pioneers Robert and Isabella Mailer of ‘Glencairn’ was the father of Melrose Holton (sometimes spelled Holtom) Mailer who won the Military Cross for courage at Passchendaele during World War One. Both father and son were doctors and until Melrose senior’s death in 1926 had a practice together in Coburg.

Melrose H. Mailer after he was awarded the MC, 
Brunswick and Coburg Leader
1 Feb 1918,

Holton Mailer was born in Carlton in 1893 and educated at Carlton College and Melbourne University. He enlisted in October 1915 and embarked in June 1916 with the 11th Field Ambulance, 33rd Battalion. He served as the Medical Officer for the 33rd Battalion, was hospitalised with gas poisioning and returned to Australia in August 1919.

 Image of Melrose Holton Mailer, Old Carlton Collegian, c1906.  This photograph is a detail of a larger photograph held by Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School entitled Old Carlton Collegians c1906 [PEGS Archives, ItemID: PH04602]

In December 1921 Holton Mailer married Millicent Turnbull at the family home, ‘Glencairn’, in Craigrossie Street, Moreland. By then he had taken over the family practice. He served briefly in World War Two and died at Elwood in 1967 aged 73.

Coburg Historical Society Newsletter, #8, July 1978
Richard Broome, Coburg between two creeks
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
National Archives of Australia, WW1 service records
Australian War Memorial image collection
Brunswick and Coburg Leader, 1 Feb 1918

Discovering Anzac website (PEGS Archive)

Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Mailer family of ‘Glencairn’, Moreland

Scottish merchant Robert Mailer and his wife Isabella Georgeson were pioneers of the area in Coburg’s south known as Moreland. They lived at ‘Glencairn’ (built in 1859) on part of the original Crown Portion 133, bought by Farquhar McCrae in October 1839 and named after his grandfather’s plantation ‘Moreland’ in Jamaica. In 1912 Mailer subdivided the property into 50 blocks, but lived on at ‘Glencairn’ where he died in 1927 aged 91.

Black and white architectural drawing of ‘Glencairn’, south elevation, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

Four views of the interior of ‘Glencairn’ taken about 1975, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

‘Glencairn’ about 1980, courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

The Mailers raised seven children at ‘Glencairn’ (three other children died in infancy). Their three surviving sons were educated at Scotch College and Mebourne University and were accomplished cricketers. Third son Ramsay was Melbourne Cricket Club President at the time of his death in 1943 and had also been the Victorian Cricket Association patron. Youngest son David was such a talented player that his 1937 obituary described him as one of the best cricketers Scotch College had ever had.

Sons Melrose and Ramsay both became doctors, Melrose working with his own son Melrose Holtam in Coburg and Ramsay becoming a specialist in nervous disorders. David became a grazier in Victoria’s Mallee. Daughters Jane and Sarah did not marry. Their two other children Catherine and Isabella married, but Catherine (Aitchison) died in 1895 aged 35 and Isabella (Hearn) died in 1929 aged 57. 

Of the three Mailer sons, one served overseas during World War One: their youngest son David, who enlisted in March 1916 aged 41. By then he had been married for four years to Catherine McNab. 14053 Private David Mailer served with the 3rd Australian Casualty Clearing Station and left Australia in late May 1916. Four months later he arrived in France and remained there until the end of the war. While he was absent, his wife took charge of his brother’s convalescent home, ‘Hethersett’ in Burwood, but more on that later. David Mailer was discharged in London in July 1919 and when he returned to Australia established himself as a grazier on the property ‘Athol’ at Shepparton where he died in 1937.

Melrose Mailer, the couple’s eldest son, worked as a doctor in Coburg until his death in 1926. His eldest daughter Ada married Eric Ivo Lowther Graves, a doctor and returned serviceman. (Two of Graves’ brothers also served.) Daughter Katie married another returned serviceman James Alfred Larwill and his son Melrose Holtom, a doctor like his father, also served. More on this group in a later post.

Middle son Ramsay Mailer, another doctor, donated and ran the convalescent home ‘Hethersett’ in Burwood with the help of family members and friends. This will be the subject of a later post.

The Mailer family, who could be considered members of Coburg's early gentry, not only made a significant contribution to the area’s history but also to the war effort during World War One.

Coburg Historical Society Newsletter, #8, July 1978
Richard Broome, Coburg between two creeks
Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes
Argus, 3 March 1917
Argus, 23 December 1937
Coburg Historical Society’s image collection
National Archives of Australia, WW1 service records
Australian War Memorial

Friday, 2 June 2017

More on James Atkin of Willow Grove

Since I wrote my last blog entry on James Atkin of Willow Grove, Coburg I've been given some extra material, which I thought I'd share.

Robin Hood Rifles, South Africa.

James' grandson writes: 'The group photo of the Robin Hood Rifles as they were known is confirmed by an inscription in my grandfather's watch given to him by the officers mess when he returned home from South Africa to his family.'

He also writes: 'The inscription on the group photo shows him incorrectly in the top row. I believe that he is third from the right in the bottom row.'  

James' grandson has also sent two more photographs of James (Jim or Jimmy to the family). The first is taken on a football field somewhere in England. The second is a portrait of James Atkin in uniform.