The Real Grandma

The impetus for this blog came out of many years tracing my family history and long talks and explorations of Wangaratta with family members. One of those family members was my dear Uncle Bert who had a wonderful memory and fabulous sense of humour, and a willingness to share everything he knew and had experienced. He was also a gentleman in the true meaning of word. His charm, grace and dignity were a wonder to experience and a life lesson for us all. Uncle Bert was born Albert Edgar Moore on 27th June 1910 to James Edgar Gordon Moore and Caroline Ann (nee Ritchie) at Bendigo, where his maternal grandmother Jane was living. Bert lived in Wangaratta all his life and married Agnes Elizabeth Cordy in Wangaratta in 1932 at the Church of Christ on the corner of Rowan and Baker Streets.

Bert was the big brother of my Grandma Alma, after whom this blog is named. Alma married Ivan Keith Jackel, also in the Church of Christ, on 10th August 1940. Together, Bert and Alma spent many hours discussing their family and how they lived, at first at Appin and then from around 1920 in Moore Street, and the shop that their father had in Murphy Street. Their generosity in sharing all their memories, in identifying photos and telling tales when their memories were triggered in walks or drives around the town was deeply appreciated, not to mention entertaining. Bert was a keen family historian and wrote several memoirs – of his life during his service in WWII, and of his childhood and family.

Bert Moore and Alma Jackel

Sadly, we lost Bert in October 2000, five months after his 90th birthday. And we lost my darling grandmother Alma on the 1st July 2015 at the wonderful age of 99 years and 4 months. Grandma was the last of the five children of James Edgar Gordon (Gordy) Moore, and the last of the six children of Caroline Ann Moore (nee Ritchie). It was a great privilege to have known both Bert and Alma, and to have experienced their kindness, love and compassion and I will always be indebted to them. There is so much to say about my grandmother and our talks but I will leave this post with a eulogy that I gave at her funeral.  Sweet dreams darling.

It is my great privilege and honour to be able to say a few words in tribute to my darling Grandma today.

 Alma Caroline Moore was born on the 7th February 1916 at Mrs West’s private hospital in Templeton Street, Wangaratta. She was the fourth child of Caroline Ann Ritchie and James Edgar Gordon Moore (known as Gordy). Apparently the family thought she was going to be the last child as she was nicknamed Bub, a name she retained throughout her life. Her siblings were Bert, Dick, Edna (known as Poppy), and the baby Jack, who was 7 years Grandma’s junior. Her early life was spent on the small family farm where Appin Park Primary School is, and the family moved into Moore Street around 1920. Alma was always very close to Dorrie Ritchie whom all the Moore children thought was a cousin. It was only in 1987, after over 80 years of silence that Dorrie revealed she was actually the Moore children’s older half sister. They were all absolutely delighted and said that they had always known that Dorrie was special.

Grandma reflected on her close knit family when I recorded her memories in 2001.

“Oh, we were always a very happy family together. We all got on very well with one another. I don’t ever remember squabbling about anything. I always admired my eldest brother Bert. For some reason I thought he was quite wonderful. And even up to the time he died, we still empathised with one other. We seemed to read one another’s minds. We were on the same wave length.”

It was this close knit family that assisted Grandma through the darkest days after her mother died when she was seventeen. The house had to be kept, meals had to be cooked and 10 year old Jack had to be cared for. A family meeting was held and it was decided that Grandma would give up work and become the housekeeper.

“So I stayed home after that, and tried to keep house. Not that I could ever do it as well as Mum did because she seemed to make a home. I always admired Mum, the way she’d be able to make scones. Seemed to be one of those things that we always had at home – scones. I missed her very much but you were a family. I suppose everybody missed her just as much as I did.”

Now, I could go on with Grandma’s biography for hours but I really want to turn to who she was as a person.

I believe these early family experiences along with her peaceful, gentle nature underpinned Grandma’s whole philosophy on life. Married for 36 years and widowed for over 38 years, she never complained about being lonely. When my Grandpa Ivan died suddenly in 1976 she soldiered on with the family business, not wanting to be a burden to anyone. When her siblings Edna, Bert and Jack each passed away she lamented how much she missed them and how good they were to her, but never made it about herself by speaking of loneliness.

Grandma was a very strong and stoic person with simple needs. She had no interest in the trappings of life such as clothes or jewellery. Despite describing herself as a dullard once, she could hold a mean conversation about politics, world affairs and religion. She watched the news avidly [and Question Time in Parliament!] and would do the Herald Sun crossword every day.

I have wonderful memories of holidays with Grandma in Swan Street where I was enveloped in her extended family and treated as their own. Her home was a sanctuary of warmth and compassion. Her desserts were also notable – cooked mostly in the wood fired stove. Her perfect scones I have never been able to emulate. Her passionfruit sponges, and sponges with cream and jelly on top will remain one of my favourite childhood memories and one that invokes involuntary licking of the lips. She taught me to knit and to crochet with exemplary patience. The wood fire that was the center of the home and the calm, comforting nature of the house in Swan Street evoke memories of a place where everything seemed right with the world. The old adage that home is where the heart is, was certainly true with Grandma.

Grandma had her moments and pet hates of course, but she stuck by everyone through thick and thin. She was always there for everyone, taking an active interest and asking questions about everyone’s lives. She had a very wide connection with family, probably borne out of her early years as a surrogate mother for her siblings. She was finely tuned into what was important to other people, knew how they were feeling, knew what to say, and at times knew when to shut up.

Grandma had true friendships that lasted a lifetime. When she moved to St Johns she made new friends – friends who taught her new ways to laugh and enjoy life. Most notable amongst these was her dear friend Maisie Nixon with whom she could complain about people who could not make a decent scone. Maisie is also famous for utterly corrupting Grandma by teaching her to read the form guide so they could follow the races together.

Grandma could name, and discuss with real interest the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of all her siblings. She was interested in everyone and often expressed worry about family members. She worried about her brother Bert’s granddaughter living in the US, so far away. She worried about how her individual great grandchildren were faring. I will miss being told as a 50 something year old that she worried about me driving back to Melbourne alone and lamenting that I was driving into the setting sun – something I think she said for 30 years. I will miss her sometimes wicked sense of humour and her sweet innocence that made us all laugh. At her 99th birthday party Grandma was presented with a hand-made birthday card by Gemma, one of Judy Field’s grandchildren. As delighted as she was, she was also taken aback and declared that she thought she was only 97.

Grandma always thanked everyone, from her family members to nursing home staff, for anything they did for her. She had an amazing ability to connect with people. Her personal pleasure came in those simple things such as seeing family members. She never complained about how long it had been since she saw someone. She was merely grateful that they were there. In her home, and later at St Johns she took simple pleasure from seeing ducks on the lawn outside her room, and watching the leaves change colour in autumn – and she expressed how lucky she was to be able to see those things. She was quite content to sit with me holding her hand and just look out her window. She had an ability to live in the moment and take all that she had as a blessing.

Grandma’s heart was full of simple gratitude that exemplified her humble life. I will always be grateful for the gifts her pure and gentle love gave me.

My darling Grandma, I leave you with this:

In our hearts you will always stay, loved and remembered every day.

Thank you for the years we shared, the love you gave, and the way you cared.

Alma Caroline Jackel, copyright Jenny Coates


“Scenes of riot and debauchery” – Dr Murphy’s letter

Sir Francis Murphy, by T. F. Chuck, 1872, courtesy State Library of Victoria

Sir Francis Murphy, by T. F. Chuck, 1872, courtesy State Library of Victoria

Dr Francis Murphy was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1809 to public servant Francis Down Murphy and Mary (née Morris). He trained in the medical profession in Cork, Trinity College, Dublin, and London qualifying  as M.R.C.S., in 1835. The next year he migrated to Sydney in where he was appointed by Governor Bourke as colonial surgeon to the Bungonia district of New South Wales in January 1837 at the age of only 27.

Murphy relinquished his medical career and became a successful farmer. He was a prominent member of the Goulburn community, acting as a magistrate on the Goulburn bench for eight years. Murphy married Agnes, daughter of Dr David Reid, in 1840 and in 1846 they followed Agnes’s brother David Reid jnr to Port Phillip where Murphy worked Reid’s Tarrawingee run until he was elected to  the Legislative Council representing the Murray district. Tarrawingee was sold in 1853 and the Murphy family moved to Collingwood. Murphy was a very influential man in the Wangaratta district in the 1840s, including being a Justice of the Peace. His connections gave him a power that few other men had. Hence, when Murphy complained about something, people in Melbourne listened.

The following is an annotated transcript of a letter written by Murphy in December 1849 to the Colonial Secretary complaining about the lawlessness and lack of police in Wangaratta. I wish Murphy had been a little more descriptive about the “scenes of riot and debauchery”!

Sir, I extremely regret, that I feel it to be my duty once again to bring under your Honours’ notice the lawless state of the township of Wangaratta, and the want of police protection in the district immediately surrounding it, and to express my conviction that sooner or later, some fatal occurrences will be the result of the present unchecked scenes of riot and debauchery which daily occur.

It is interesting to note that this was not Murphy’s first complaint about the lack of a police presence in the town.

Owing to the circumstance of this being the only township in these districts where no police are stationed, it has followed that the idle and disorderly, far and near, congregate here, and I am constantly receiving complaints from the residents of outrages committed upon them both in person and property and which I am wholly unable to take notice of, through want of the necessary means of redress.

These scenes are interesting as the discovery of gold at Beechworth was over two years away so these trouble makers weren’t fresh from the goldfields and flush with money. Most of them were probably ex-convicts from New South Wales, moving away from areas where they would be under easy surveillance, as Murphy pointed out.

Saturday afternoon at the diggings 1854 by Charles Lyall, courtesy of the State Library of Victoria

The above image, while probably sketched around Victoria’s central goldfields gives an idea of what was going on in the pubs on a good day.

The publicans have frequently stated to me their inability to prevent the hordes of drunkards, which are always to be found upon their premises and about them, and I know that they have upon several occasions been subject to great violence with serious damage to their homes and persons in their efforts to keep disorderly people away and to suppress outrage.

Sydney Hotel on the site of Clark’s Hope Inn c1860s, courtesy Museum Victoria

William Henry Clark’s Hope Inn was operating at this time, as was his Commercial Inn on Murphy Street. Thomas Bond’s Travellers’ Inn was on Sydney Rd (now Ryley St) and James Melville held the Wangaratta Hotel on the north bank of the Ovens. There may have been two other hotels in the town that I’ll post about another time.



It is but a few days back that one of the innkeepers had a narrow escape from being shot by a scoundrel who put a loaded pistol to his breast and snuffed it when it providentially missed fire. The pistol was loaded with ball and went off the second time in the hands of the innkeeper who wrested it from his antagonist. Upon this occasion I had the police sent for, from the Broken River [Benalla], some 40 miles off, but before their arrival, which always takes place after a most leisurely interval, the thing was well known, and of course the offender was out of the way. The police made, as usual, a careless and ineffectual search, returning to their quarters the following day, and thinking no more of the matter, and when their backs were about, the man I am told reappeared. And I have every reason to believe from the reports I have heard, that he will again attempt the life of the publican. The latter’s offense appears to be, that he gave some information about a robbery which there is no doubt this villain had committed a few days before, as the stolen property was found by some blacks near his hut.

I would really like to know who this poor terrified innkeeper was. I’ve found no reports of this incident in newspapers, although coverage was sparse at this time, and police gazettes revealed nothing. It seems appalling that the ‘villain’ wasn’t apprehended and that the event and victim’s name have disappeared from the record.

Yesterday I was waited upon by Mr Gemmell, a medical practitioner at Wangaratta, who informed me that his house had been attacked in his absence by some drunken fellows, who broke in his windows in the face of his wife, a lady at the time in a very delicate state of health, and he describes the place (the township), to use his own words ‘as a Hell upon earth’ where it is becoming utterly impossible for any decent person to live.

Dr Murphy didn’t take the advice of Dr Gemmell merely because he was a fellow medical practitioner and therefore respectable. The two doctors had other connections that show them to be more than mere acquaintances. They owned land in Melbourne next to each other and both had political aspirations amongst other things. Murphy’s mention of Dr Gemmell’s wife being “in a very delicate state” was a term commonly used for pregnancy. Maria Caroline Nash (nee Winnington) Gemmell was barely 21 years old at the time of these attacks, and pregnant with her first child John Gemmell junior and as Murphy reported, was alone in the house. Gemmell’s house may have been targeted as it had real glass windows which were expensive and signalled a relatively wealthy person lived there.

He says that drunken people are frequently about stark naked in the day time, and that all kinds of rioting and blasphemy exist from one weeks end to another. As Mr Gemmell is I believe, about going to Melbourne I have recommended him to wait upon your Honour and represent the state of the place of which he is a constant eye witness.

I can’t say much more about people swanning around the streets of Wangaratta in drunken stupors and stark naked except that I wish Murphy had named names!

There are now considerably upwards of two hundred person living at ‘Wangaratta’ and many houses of brick and wood are built and are in course of erection.

Dr Murphy uses ‘Wangaratta’ as the town was named only in the April of 1849, previously being known as the Ovens Crossing Place. His mention of the housing stock indicates that for the past 12 years accommodation had largely been temporary with tents and bark huts the norm. Wood and brick buildings were signs of establishment and that people were prepared to invest in the future of the town. Murphy clearly thought the town had potential if only it had adequate policing.

I would strongly, but respectfully, press these statements upon your Honour’s attention, with the view of urging your Honour to take whatever step your Honour may deem requisite in the matter and that be in your Honour’s power.

And I have the honour to be your Honour’s most obedient humble servant.

Francis Murphy JP

If you have any stories of crime and police in early Wangaratta I’d love to hear from you.

On This Day In Wangaratta – 4th July 1875

This day marks the 140th anniversary of the death of George Moore at the tender age of 28 years. George died at the home of his parents on the One Mile Creek after a four week battle with typhoid fever. It must have been a horrible lingering end for the young man.

George Moore - part death certificateGeorge was born on the 23 November 1845 at Hedi Station (otherwise known as Oxley Plains or Edi) on the Ovens River where his father John Moore was an overseer for the brothers George and William Pitt Faithfull. His mother Margaret (nee Considine) also worked on the property.  George’s birth was quite unusual for the time as he was a twin, and both babies survived to adulthood. His (possibly identical) brother was William Moore, my great great grandfather.

The death of George was a tragedy greater than the loss of a son and brother. George had married Moyhu resident Mary Jane Armstrong less than three years before his death. The marriage took place on 25th September 1872 at the old Holy Trinity Church and was conducted by William Charles Ford. Witnesses to the union were John Moore junior (George’s eldest brother), and Harriet Marum, one of George’s sisters. Mary Jane was only 17 years old and permission for her marriage was given by her mother Sarah Ann Montgomery Staton. Sarah had been widowed when her husband John Armstrong, a mines inspector died, and had remarried when Mary Jane was around two years old.

On the 1st February 1874 Mary Jane had given birth to George Earl Moore. Now, less than 18 months later she was aged 20, and was a widow with a child to raise. The parallels between Mary Jane’s experience and that of her mother are obvious. Mary Jane continued to be part of the Moore family, with her son George Earl visiting the Moore family until well into the 1930s.

Mary Jane did marry again, to Moyhu blacksmith James Lonnie Fulton in 1879.

She continued to live at Moyhu, and had seven daughters in a row and finally another son with James. When that son William Dunsmore Fulton was only two years old James Lonnie Fulton died aged only 42. Incredibly, the cause of death was typhoid. Mary Jane was again a widow, this time with eight children, the oldest of whom was only 16. At least in these circumstances Mary Jane inherited the land at Moyhu that the family lived on. George Earl, by now aged 23, assisted his mother and remained close to her all his life.

This is an image of Mary Jane Fulton and her first child George Earl Moore taken in 1935, probably on the occasion of Mary Jane’s 80th birthday. Mary Jane passed away in 1936. George Earl married Rosalie Salmon in 1901 and raised five children in Melbourne. This image was kindly given to me by George’s son Charles Bertram Moore in 1991.

The bank teller and Ned Kelly

Regular readers of this blog will know that I don’t spend a lot of time on Ned Kelly. Blogs and websites dedicated to the Kellys explore the subject in great depth and I could never, nor do I want to, go into the kind of detail found on them. The history of north eastern Victoria is so much bigger than the story of the Kelly Gang and so I have focused on things that interest me and what I can relate to my family history and my own experience.

Ned Kelly, wood engraving published by Alfred May and Alfred Martin Ebsworth, November 1878, courtesy State Library of Victoria

So, now that you’ve read that disclaimer you are probably wondering what I’m up to.

Early this year I had the opportunity to research some letters written in early 1879 in order to authenticate them. The letters were written by a bank teller named George Vernon McCracken when he was working at the Colonial Bank of Australasia in Benalla. The letters mention a whole host of interesting things, not the least of which were the Kelly Gang. The letters had been brought to the attention of Wangaratta solicitor John Suta, known for his work in the repatriation of Ned Kelly’s remains, and a self confessed “Kelly tragic”. John immediately saw the value in the letters and determined to have the letters authenticated. He enlisted Jamie Kronborg, a journalist for North Eastern Media  who wrote this article, published in January this year.

Not long after Jamie’s article I was hard at work, analysing every part of the letters and verifying their provenance. Using dozens of research questions I was able to verify the letters as genuine with a solid provenance. The story and information that came out of this research is complex and very interesting. The connections to Wangaratta come in the most unexpected form and every aspect of the letters and of it’s provenance has its own story.

Just one of the comments young McCracken makes on bank letterhead is that there was “great dissatisfaction at the movements of the police in the matter of the Kellys and people are beginning to declare against the force in general”. He makes other comments about the Kelly Gang, his home and family, and about ordinary events in the bank. The letters give an insight into the life of a young man making his way in the world and reporting back to his parents during his first job away from home.

Needless to say the writing up of this research will take quite a while. It may end up as a peer reviewed journal article as it will probably be too long for one blog post. While I’m working on getting all this down there will be questions about different aspects of the letters and the author but please hold off as all will be revealed in the final publication. I will not respond to specific questions, nor debate about the content of the letters or the author until after the publication. Comments asking about specifics or making uninformed assumptions about the letters, my research or qualifications will not be approved for publication.

While you’re waiting for the bigger story a truncated version of Jamie’s latest newspaper article on my findings can be found for free here. If you subscribe to the Wangaratta Chronicle you can see a more detailed review of the research on page 6 of the edition published on Friday 26th June 2015. This article will also be published in the Beechworth based Ovens and Murray Advertiser. After three months I believe these editions will be available for free via Press Reader.

**Postscript 3rd July 2015** Unfortunately some readers have not understood the above information regarding comments so all comments have been disabled on this post.

This post was first published on If you see it anywhere else, please contact the author of this blog.

On This Day in Wangaratta – 22nd June 1857

Bushranging has long been a part of Australia’s history and folklore. We have all heard about the big stories, but we probably don’t realise that bushranging occurred regularly in poorly policed areas and that Wangaratta was one such place, until at least the early 1860s. This sketch by S. T. Gill, composed in 1852 and courtesy of the State Library of Victoria is of bushrangers lying in wait for ‘contributions’ by passersby who were transporting their gold findings around Bendigo.

Bushrangers by S T GillBelow is an account of bushranging carried out by one Wangaratta resident and an accomplice at the One Mile bridge on 22nd June 1857. Their victims were John Currie and Robert Cousens. Even in these early days the bandits tried to add a romantic element and a touch of notoriety by giving themselves nick names. Robert Harding dubbed himself “The Trooper”, while his partner in crime John Banks had yet to determine to own personal style. Also in this article published in the Ovens & Murray Advertiser is a report that John Brown, a butcher, was burgled by John Hilton, also known as John Robinson Hall, who fancied himself as “the Marquis”.

On This Day in Wangaratta – 15th June 1930

On this day in Wangaratta the famous female aviator Amy Johnson landed at Bowser. The landing was quite a coup for the town as Wangaratta was the only stopover on her route from Canberra to Melbourne. Newspaper reports put the crowd at 17,000!

These images were taken by local photographer G. E. (Godfrey Ernest) Roberts and come from the collection of the State Library of Victoria. If you look closely at the first image you can see an awful lot of the local police got front row seats! Their shiny police helmets are a giveaway.

Amy Johnson probably leaving the Pinsent Hotel

Amy Johnson probably leaving the Pinsent Hotel

This report from the Maitland Mercury tells all.

Maitland Mercury, 16th June 1930A better image of Johnson’s Gypsy Moth can be viewed at the Coffs Harbour Library here and an image of Major de Havilland’s Hawk Moth which accompanied Amy to Melbourne can be viewed here.


On This Day in Wangaratta – 9th June 1896

On this day in 1896 Dr William Joseph Carroll passed away after battling pleurisy for six weeks. He was only 41. Dr Carroll was born in Dublin to wealthy former Lord Mayor Sir William Carroll (also a doctor) and Margaret Elizabeth Pearson. Sir William was quite well known in Dublin society, being dubbed one of the city’s ‘Civic Celebrities’. What brought his sons William and Stanislaus to Victoria is not known but William jnr arrived in New South Wales around 1880. He married 17 year old Ada Agnes Hudson early the next year at Corowa.

Dr Carroll worked for short times at Wahgunyah and Warracknabeal, before settling in Wangaratta in the late 1880s. His name made the news in 1893 when a man named Carl Stumph was brought before the Rushworth Court on a charge of perjury after he claimed to be a registered medical practitioner. Stumph had ‘practiced’ in Rushworth for several years, using the name and qualifications of the real Dr William Carroll of Wangaratta.

The Carroll’s must have been a theatrical family. William jnr’s brother Stanislaus, was an actor who used the stage name Stannis Leslie while working at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne. Their father, while knighted, struggled to find the respect often accorded to his position. You can see a wonderful cartoon lampooning Sir William by portraying him as a fat clown here.

Dr Carroll’s widow, later spelling her name as Aida Agnes or Agnes Aida, moved to Brisbane where she died in 1923. For all the prominence of Dr Carroll’s father and the celebrity of his brother, Dr William Joseph Carroll quickly faded into obscurity. No death notice appeared in the newspapers and most probably no international obituary. He left no probate and he is buried alone in an unknown grave in the Roman Catholic section of the Wangaratta cemetery.