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Tristan Rankine

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This letter was written by Marion Lloyd-Jones in about 1956

National Trust Letter 1956 for web

The Hon. Sec.,
National Trust of Australia
9 Victoria Street

Dear sir,

 You are asking for information on Pioneers, prior to 1875.

 My paternal Grandparents came here in 1838.  You have already got him listed, but may not have details.

 About 60 years ago there was a picture in the Gallery of Pioneers prior to 1840.  There were about 30 in the group centered with John Batman and John Pascoe Falkner.  My Grandfather was amongst them – Henry Rankine.  He came from Scotland to Sydney in 1835, and came to Melbourne in 1838.  He bought land in Post Office Place at the corner of Elizabeth Street, South West corner.  At that time the Yarra was very shallow at the foot of Elizabeth Street, and after heavy rains it used to overflow its banks and flood Elizabeth Street. This happened very often so Grandfather sold the corner and went further up Post Office Place to the rise of the land. You will notice Rankin’s Lane  on the map.  He built a shop and residence and lived there east of Rankin’s Lane (named after him).  He was a Furniture and Cabinet Maker, also a coffin maker, and if needed would be an Assistant Undertaker. Later on it was also a Second hand shop and Ironmongers.  His wife and family lived there, and the children were educated at St. John’s Church of England day school in La Trobe Street. My father, Henry Jun., the third son, was born in 1848.

 Henry Rankin sen. Died in 1883, and his wife and several members of his family are buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery at Carlton.  I am 80 years old and the oldest living grandchild, and remember my grandfather quite well.  Of  course there are many great grandchildren with whom I am not in direct touch.

 So much for my Paternal Grandparents.

 My Maternal grandparents were –

 James and Jane Toohey.

 James Toohey born County Cork (Cork) Ireland in 1817, arrived in Melbourne in 1840.  Jane Sullivan, born Cork (Ireland) in 1819, daughter of a Schoolmaster, and arrived in Melbourne in 1841, I think in a brideship.  They had known each other in Ireland.  He used to tease her and say she followed him.  There may have been a grain of truth in it for rather a “dashing blade” was James by his early photo (daguerreotype).  However he met her on arrival in 1841 and they were married at St. Francis’ Church, Elizabeth street in 1841.  They knew quite a lot of friends who came in the two ships from Ireland. They lived at first at Emerald Hill (South Melbourne). It was called Canvas Town (all tents). They bought land in A’Beckett Street (later Anthony’s Timber Yard). It was in Jane Toohey’s name but there was no Married Women’s Property act then. Later they bought land in Brighton near Dendy Street, and farmed there for some years. They were prosperous and happy with children and friends. My mother, Mary, was born there in 1850. then in 1851 came the gold strike. James got the gold fever, sold up the Brighton farm and decided to go to the country. Of course Grandma and the children had to go too. She tried to keep the A’Becket Street land, but no, he wanted any assets converted to make a fortune wherever the gold was found.

 He had two partners, friends from Ireland. They made large sums of money and spent large sums of money. The three partners used to take the gold to the bank and get sovereigns and half sovereigns in return.

 One of these partners was a bachelor and one day after getting his share of the money he gave a sovereign to one of the children for lollies, unknown to her parents. She promptly came back for another one for her little brother. This time she was seen as he was handing her another sovereign.

 There was a women confectioner who used to make pink and white lolly sticks at 2/6d. each, so a sovereign wouldn’t go far!

 They had to live in tents, but all the other miners and their wives lived in the same primitive way and they were all friends and happy.

 Each women helped the other in some way. Grandmother Toohey was always on call if anyone was ill. Although she had no special training, she would go at any time to help. “Send for Mrs. Toohey” was the cry. No doctor was handy and she used to he midwife to many young mothers. She had eight children, so she had much experience in childish ailments. They depended on her a lot.

 She was very hospitable. She used to cook huge meals on a camp oven. Everyone was welcome. There was always some over for anyone, as she would say, who might be on “The Dublin Road” heading their way!

 A miner, Kennedy, lost his wife and was left with two girls. They were brought to live with their own 8 children for years until they grew up.

 The family eventually settled in Castlemaine and the children went to school there. My mother remembered Robert O’Hara Burke, the explorer, in 1860. he lived at the barracks and used to pass their house daily at the head of a column of men. Soon after he left to go on his expedition to Carpentaria.

 There was no industry in Castlemaine, so the family came to Melboune in the early seventies. They lives at Hotham (North Melbourne). After that they lived in varying stages of prosperity. James died in 1893 and Jane in 1898. They are both buried in the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton.

more to come....Tristan.


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