John George Fowles was born on the 7th January, 1858 at Gheringhap, Geelong in Victoria. He was baptised into his families Baptist faith. At the time he was born his parents were on the gold fields trying their luck with prospecting. John was the first of our Fowles line born in Australia.
Blakeville to Ballan:
John was the son of Hannah (Ann) and William Fowles pioneer assisted settlers to Ballan from England; John’s siblings were William Frederick Fowles, b.1850, Hannah Elizabeth Fowles, b.1853, Emily Alice Fowles, b.1854, Henry Alfred Fowles, b.1855, Frances Amelia Fowles, b.1860, Albert Edwin Fowles, b.1866 and James Henry Fowles, b. 1848.
John had selected land in Mirboo with his father but due to an unscrupulous land dealer the original land that he has selected was not that which they were later shown again. John and William consequently declined to take up this land. Instead they ended up selecting land in Ferndale
As a young man John worked with his father and brothers in their carrying business which involved spending months away at a time from home using their bullocks and dray to cart goods. Before he and Lily moved away to Ferndale he had a run of his own between Hay in the north of Victoria through to Melbourne.
It was on one of these carting trips that John later recounted his meeting with the Bushranger Ned Kelly. John had set up his camp at the end of a long day.
The fire provided warmth and light and he put the billy on to boil. The dark night had fallen quickly and all the animals were fed and safely hobbled for the night. John had thought he would put on the billy for a hot cup of tea before setting up his swag for the night.
John was a little startled when a man on a grey horse appeared through the bush. His arrival almost completely soundless. He dismounted from the grey and asked John would he share a mug of tea. John of course obliged and the two spent a good amount of time engaged in comfortable companionship and conversation. The two men being near in age were blessed with plenty to talk about. John later moved to get something out of his swag and when he came back he found his guest had gone as quietly as he had arrived. John had of course recognised his visitor as the infamous Ned.
John married quite literally the girl next door, Lily Mary Lorkin (whose family name had previously been Larkin) on the 14th April 1890 in Blakeville. The wedding was at the Catholic church in the district of Gordon. At the time of their marriage John was aged 32. Their first child Lila was born in Blakeville. Their remaining children would be born at their new home in Ferndale.
Stories I was told as a child were that the two had put letters to each other under a rock in the paddock that adjoined their parents properties prior to their more formal announcement of their intentions. ( Love a bit of romance.) There had apparently been some resistance initially due to the differing faiths but once this was resolved and John was able to get their ‘stake’ together John and Lily married after five years of courtship.
Lily Mary Lorkin was the daughter of John Lorkin and Mary Donovan both of Ireland. As I understood it both John and Mary came to Australia for a better life after the potato famine in Ireland. Settling in Ballan nearby to the Fowles family they ended up being neighbours.
Lily was born in Ballarat on the 20th September 1863. Unlike John she was born into a Catholic family.
Lily’s siblings were Michael Francis Lorkin b.1865, Lucy Ellen Lorkin b.1868, baby John Lorkin b.1869 – deceased 1869. John Thomas Lorkin b. 1872, James Lorkin b.1877, Daniel Patrick Lorkin b.1879, Mary Jane Lorkin b. 1880, Catherine known as Kate Lorkin b.1882.
Things must have become more congenial between the families because not only would Lily marry Johns Fowles but her sister Lucy Ellen would marry Albert Edwin Fowles, John’s brother. It is also important to recognise that being Irish in Australia at this time was to be considered of a somewhat lesser desirable group than say to be born English. Life for Irish families coming to live in Australia had a significant amount of social stigma still attached to them from the old world. Irish families likewise were more likely to have difficulties establishing themselves on an equal playing field to their English counterparts. Hundreds of years of political dissent between the two countries accompanied their peoples to the new colonies.
Lily’s father and mother both Irish immigrants had built a life for themselves in the newly emerging colony. John Lorkin Lily’s father had been born Larkin and hailed from Ferbane in Ireland.
The story went that he had changed the families name on settling in Blakeville as there was another family called Larkin in the district and that their mail continued to be confused. John had been a Gardener at the property of Mr C.H. Lyons and Mrs. Juliet Lyons of the property Ballanee in Blakeville prior to going onto his own farm. Mr Lyons was a cousin of the royal family who would become the Windsor’s in the twentieth century. At the time Queen Victoria was on the throne of England.
Mrs. Lyons painted a round wooden occasional table top as a wedding gift to the Lorkin’s daughter, Lily. (My grandmother inherited the table on the death of her mother and it remained in her home for many years. Indeed there is a photo of me sitting on it as a baby. However in the seventies it was found to be full of white ant and subsequently was used as firewood.)
Pioneering at Ferndale:
John and his father William had traveled through the Warragul area which was opening up to Selectors who would be intrepid enough to take on a parcel of land. Dense bush blocks covered the rolling hills and whilst the land was fertile and water plentiful; the task of removing trees and preparing land suitable for pasture and animals was an almost herculean task. William had selected land for his family in the area. A few years after their marriage John and his wife, their small family and indeed several of relations all migrated to the to the Warragul area as settlers on selections.
The first home that John built for his family was the simple slab hut of two rooms. (A description of how this was achieved is in the memoirs written by John’s son Jack on this site. ). Once the farm was established John then built a more substantial and permanent home. The ruins of the home were still evident on the property in the late 1990’s. The final home built was named Everglade, the same name as the property.
One of the greatest difficulties the settlers faced was the almost impenetrable bush and their need for decent roads to be able to cart their goods and supplies in and out.
From the Warragul Guardian & Buln Buln & Narracan & Shire Advocate; Friday 29th December 1893. ‘From John Fowles, Ferndale asking that road lately surveyed to his place be cleared as he had no road to travel on. Council has no power to deal with half chain roads’. ( A chain is an older measurement and is a bit over 20 metres in length.)
As difficult as clearing the roads was it would appear lads will still be lads and John’s brother Albert ended up with a nasty injury as reported;
From the Warragul Guardian; 4th May 1897 SEA VIEW. A singular accident. A nasty accident has befallen Mr. Albert Fowles, who is farming on the Track here with his brothers. He was indulging in a little recreation on Sunday with a number of others, and among the pastimes engaged in was the throwing of a pick-axe, One of the number appears to’ have been swinging the pick around his head preparatory to throwing it, when Mr. Fowles ventured too close to the whirling weapon, and received “a violent blow in the face with a portion of the handle”. The force of the impact stunned him, and’ on being brought in to Dr. Trumpy, it was found that his nose was broken, and his face greatly bruised.. He remains under treatment at the doctor’s, ‘and is making satisfactory progress towards recovery.
From the Warragul Guardian; 12th October 1897; From J. Fowles, Ferndale; Calling attention to the road leading to his selection and asking councils assistance in clearing it. He had worked on it for a month but the scrub was so dense he had only been able to clear a pack-track and found it impossible to use a sledge on it, owing to its narrowness. He would give ten shilling towards it and employ labour to do the work if not by contract. It was 37 chains long. Secretary to inquire if legal?
From the Warragul Guardian; 28th February 1899. From J. Fowles, Ferndale; A bad state of road leading to his place. Motion is to pay for repair – road needing repair.
As was often the custom of the time the children were named for family members. In Lily and John’s children they were named as follows.
Lily Mary named for her mother and grandmother Lorkin.
John Patrick for his father.
Albert William for his fathers brothers.
James Henry for his mothers brother.
May Jane for her grandmother.
Ann and Emily for their father’s sisters.
William Francis for father’s brother and paternal grandfather.
Laura Agnes, these two last names were favoured by Lily. Agnes may well have been for her aunt Hannorah Agnes Lorkin.
As the nineteenth century drew to a close bushfires that would later become known as Red Tuesday would rip through southern Gippsland with devastating results. The fires started on the 1st February and would go on for two weeks and burnt uncontrolled and unabated.
At the end of the fires twelve people were dead. Many were injured and over two and half thousand people were homeless. Countless stock and property was destroyed. In the end around fifteen thousand people were considered to have been severely affected by the Red Tuesday bushfires.
The weather was unseasonably hot that year and the Argus newspapers in Melbourne reported what they called an ‘inferno’ that continued unabated with no relief in sight. The very township of Warragul was threatened itself with being destroyed.
Being summer the grass was high and February always being the hottest month of the year the ingredients were right for a fire. Low humidity and strong winds fanned out across Victoria the fires were almost inevitable given these circumstances. Many of the farmers were caught unexpectedly as fireballs hurled across the state and gum trees exploded as the sap caught fire, hurtling fire in all directions.
My grandmother told how her parents had put the nine children into a paddock of corn, (it was summer and the corn was high and green.) Corn fields as a result did not burn like the surrounding bushland.
The children lived in the cornfield for two weeks until the fires were over. The children were surprised to find many other animals both native and introduced also moved into the cornfield during this time. All her life my grandmother had a deep phobia and fear of what she called ‘Joe-Blakes’ (snakes) and apparently they saw many of them during their time in the cornfield.
Meanwhile Lily and John were out with their neighbours in a desperate effort to beat back and suppress the fires and save their properties. Split green saplings, wetted hessian bags and desperation formed up much of the fire-fighting equipment available to the settlers.
The fires would be burnt back and ebb only to reignite the next day and sweep off in another direction, continuing their halcyon path of destruction.
The Fowles family home was saved but much of the property,stock and crops were destroyed. Insurance as it exists today was frequently not available to the settlers as their properties were not considered insuring by the agencies.
Lily would often reminisce to her children later in her life that John had sat on a log at the end of the two weeks with his neighbours with his head in his hands and the men had wept at the loss they had all endured. Strong and resilient men as these bushmen were, the loss must have been phenomenal.
Life in Ferndale:
As life renewed in the district John and Lily amongst many others took part in fundraisers that would eventuate in their children having a school to attend. The Lorkins put a healthy two pound donation forward for the building.
From the West Gippsland Gazette; 20 November 1900. DISTRICT NEWS .[FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENTS] WEST TARWIN .A very successful dance was held in the butter factory on Friday, November 9th., in aid of the school building fund. Visitors were present from Geachville, Halston, Sea View, etc., dancing being kept up until daylight. Mr. P. Heintz made an efficient MI.C., while Messrs. W. and C. Brown, kindly supplied the music. Messrs. Fink and Brown canvassed the Ferndale and West Tarwin districts for donations towards the proposed school and met with great success. The following is a list of donations promised : – W. Brown,£11/5; P. Fink, £2; H. Riseley, £1;R. W. Tanner, £1; P. Purcell, £1:J. Torenow, 2/6; J. O’Hare, £1; J.Arnup, 10/; H. Aikman, £1/5/; H. Mlotton, £1/10/; C. Worth, £1; A. Svensen, £1; F. Purcell, £2; S. Rowe, £1; J. Fowles, £2; B. Fowles,15/; J. Lorkin, 15/; J. Graham, £1;H. Warne, £1; F. Gilbertson, 10/;iM. Walsh, 10/; W. Warne, £1; W.Wyatt. £1 ; E. Richardson, £1; H.Tanner, £1.
A harsh loss:
When my grandmother was nine months old the family endured a tragedy when John who had ailed in great pain ever since the Red Tuesday bushfires finally succumbed to the extensive damage done to his lungs and died. He died at home in Ferndale on the 21st March 1903 aged only 45 years. He is buried in the Roman Catholic section at Warragul Cemetery. The children were told after his death that his lungs had been ‘burned out from the fires.’
John’s death was registered by his brother Harry and it was Harry that notified the papers and I daresay extended family. I can only imagine that this must have been hard on John’s brother as beyond neighbour’s they had grown up together.
The official cause of death was given as pleurisy pneumonia pericarditis. John’s oseophagus had been badly burnt from the fires and he was never able to fully recover and subsequently endured a slow and painful demise with eventual infection from which he could not recover.
From the West Gippsland Gazette; 31st March 1903. FERNDALE; The death of Mr. J. Fowles has caused widespread regret in the district. He was one of the oldest settlers and a great favourite with the people. He leaves a widow and nine children, the eldest being about 12 years of age. It was the first funeral which has left this district and this country has been opened up for about 15 years. The country is looking splendid, all the pastures in fine condition, many of the milking cattle are fit for beef they are in such good condition. There will be no shortage of grass this winter. A large tract of country has been cleared of timber and burnt off this year. About 3000 acres are to be laid down in grass.
From the West Gippsland Gazette; 31st March 1903. Bereavement Notice. Mrs. Fowles and Family wish to thank their many friends for their kind sympathy in their recent sad bereavement. H. A. FOWLES.
At the time John died there were six pounds in the bank and a herd of milking cows. “Grandmother Lorkin” came to stay for a few weeks to help out before returning to Blakeville.
I asked once why Lily never remarried and my grandmother told me that she had been totally devoted to her husband in their twelve years of marriage and never considered anyone else.
She turned her efforts to fulfilling her husbands dream and building a successful dairying farm and even ended up buying a few more farms which she left to their sons.
She had told her daughter Laura that the days were not so bad as she was always busy with the children and the farm but the nights she found lonely and this was when she grieved the loss of her husband the most.
Growing up in Ferndale:
All the Fowles children went to the nearby Seaview school, their normal mode of transport was on the back of ponies. Each of the children had tasks that were assigned to them and for my grandmother as the youngest it was churning the butter for the family.
“THE” Butter Recipe. (according to Laura).
Full cream milk, a pinch of salt, into the butter churn and a great deal of churning later would result in the much desired butter. I asked how you would know it was ready. I was met with laughter and the statement that you would know because your arm was ready to drop off. One time my grandmother, mother and I were going through an antique shop together and my grandmother reached across to the ridiculously high price tag on an old churn and after huffing at the exhorbitant asking price said in reasonably clear voice that ‘these had been the bane of my life as a young girl’.
Transport and the challenges it provided seemed to be a bit of a theme in those early pioneering days and the winter didn’t seem to make life much easier. My grandmother told me how in the depths of cold and wet winter the roads would turn to a muddy bog and getting through with buggies and jinkers could equally prove difficult. Apparently it was not an uncommon sight to see horses pulling a sled across the tracks and around about’s in the winter as they could get through the mud without too much trouble.
Over the winter months when the roads were difficult Lily would order in bulk supplies to keep them all fed as they wouldn’t go into Warragul so often. I guess 18 miles over treacherous windy roads probably wasn’t that exciting an idea. Even the cream wagon would only come once a week in those months.
The track passing Ferndale which is now the Ferndale-Strzlecki Road had to be cleared by hand. My grandmother recounted how the road was cleared over many years by family and neighbours. There was one time she was so sick with tonsillitis and the road impassable in the middle of winter that she had to be taken into Warrragul over the muddy roads by the passing weekly mail truck.
Lily would order in rice, flour, treacle, golden syrup, sugar and tea. During the summer months she and the girls would have ‘put up’ a great deal of stores of any and every bit of fruit and vegetable surplus they had grown and these went into jars and crocks in massive quantity.
My grandmother remarked that she didn’t know if there was anything that her mother couldn’t grow or put into a jar!
The boys used to bring down the apples out of the trees put them in fruit boxes covered with hessian and then put the boxes back up in the trees where apparently they would keep good as gold for a month or more for later eating.
Potatoes and pumpkins and onions were ‘put down in the dark’ for months after having been harvested. When there was meat needed one of the ‘beasts’ would be killed and dressed. Milk and butter and cream was no problem as they lived on a dairy. My grandmother recalled how the chickens and ducks were her and her sisters responsibility. She remarked on the simpleness of their living and how she often thought their upbringing was probably happier in a lot of ways than others.
Eggs were fresh and nothing ever came out of a carton, refrigeration was unheard of. Like most Australian families of those days, the best way of keeping food was preserve it, stick it in the dark, salt it, put it near something cold or eat it!
Lily would put over paddocks each year to growing potatoes, sweet corn and onion. These formed a great deal of the backbone of the diet for the growing, family. She also had extensive orchards of fruit.
Lily’s garden was not only a food source but there was what was called the ‘home garden’ and this was apparently very large and stuffed full of geraniums, roses, gladiolis, foxgloves, and any number of flowering plants and shrubs that Lily could get to grow in the fertile Gippsland soil.
The girls were pressed into working in the gardens alongside their mother and of course they all became great gardeners later in life. I guess being the daughter of a Gardener she would have picked up many tips from her father through his work in the gardens at Ballanee.
It wasn’t all pretty flowers either. My grandmother said that the whole family used to get in on mending and fixing fences across the property and it didn’t matter whether you were girl or boy you all got in and did your share. From the way she had described this task I don’t think fencing was one of her favourite things to do either!
Christmas at Ferndale was a huge affair. My grandmother told how rain, hail or blistering Australian sun (in the middle of Summer as Christmas in Australia falls), Lily would get up very early and prepare a full roasted meal to be served at noon. This would be goose or duck with all the trimmings.
This was accompanied by cuts of cold meat, hot vegetables, pies and puddings. Pretty much if it was in the barnyard at Ferndale it likely made its way onto the heavily laden dining table at Christmas.
Lily would put the plum pudding on to steam. Apparently this pudding was always huge and I guess with so many mouths to feed it would have had to have been. The pudding had coins inside it for the lucky ones to find. You had to be careful not to bite too hard lest you bit into a coin.
There were always about twenty people or more at the Fowles place of a Christmas time. In the evening the carpet was rolled up in the parlor and put away. Then the piano was warmed up for a night of singing and dancing. All the Fowles were musical people and enjoyed a good singalong.
When my grandmother was a girl of about five or so her mother adopted Daphne Ray. Daphne was raised in the family, one of the ‘very dearest of sisters’, my grandmother recalled of Daphne. They were thick as thieves and my grandmother reminisced that she had been absolutely devastated when she found out that Daphne had died around 1970. One of Daphne’s daughter’s Valma had been her god-daughter and she had died as a young girl of thirteen from hepatitis; a very sad time in her life my grandmother had said. She kept a photograph of Valma even as an old woman in her nineties.
Now I don’t know much about cars, past or present, but I was told that Lily had one of the first cars in the Ferndale district; I hope that car could manage those roads!
The family used to go into Warragul township once per month to stock up on supplies. My grandmother recalled with fond memories going with her mother to Cromie’s Corner Shop in Warragul.
Cromie referred to proprietor Joseph Cromie who operated a drapery and mixed business in Smith Street Warragul. ‘Mr Cromie’ was held in high regard by Lily Fowles. Cromie’s Corner now being a well known landmark of Warragul township.
There was always a huge pot of soup going on the wood fire stove. I don’t know whether my grandmother ever knew whether that pot was ever empty.
But she said it would serve as lunch most days for anyone who lived there or was passing through or who had heard there was a meal to be had ‘up by Mrs Fowles place’. My grandmother recalled that she seemed to remember ‘there was always someone in the kitchen cooking something’.
In the early days and for many years later Lily reputedly had cooked over an open fire and a camp oven.
Apparently Lily had a belief that no one should pass her door without a feed even more so if they were in any type of need. Lily and the girls would also make up great loaves of bread and scones which were always in plentiful supply for any meal.
When I asked about the food, my grandmother was a little wistful and recalled, “My mother was a magnificent cook, her fresh bread was the best you could ever taste. The best cook in the world.”
I’d like to say that as the recipient of many of my own grandmother’s meals, she was a magnificent cook so obviously learnt from a masterful hand. I’d just about chop off my own left ear to have another one of my grandmother’s meals if I could. So I know how she must have felt.
I don’t know what the Fowles family of Baptist faith in Ballan must have thought of having a daughter-in-law whose faith differed to their own? I like to think that it was of no consequence in the end and that they all rubbed along together in comfortable harmony.
What I did get told was that Lily was a devoted Catholic and that all of the children were raised in this faith and fully versed in the catechism. Lily’s mother would send her a letter each week and they obviously corresponded very frequently. Along with her letter Mary Lorkin would send her daughter a copy of the Ballan weekly church service to share with her family. Now my grandmother was a powerful believer in prayer and I can’t think of one of those great-aunts and uncles who would have been any different. I think Lily would have been happy to know she gave her children the gift of faith.
The Great War 1914 – 1918:
In 1915 war came to Gippsland. They called it the Great War, a war on the other side of the world but the boys and men from Australia were quick to sign up in their thousands to ‘do their bit’.
A hundred years later we remember our ANZAC’s this year and commemorate their sacrifice.
I don’t think anyone thinks that the war was great. I for one think it was a horrific loss of a generation of young men and women and an utter tragedy. Two of John and Lily’s sons signed up and a third (Bill) tried to sneak in and put his age up (he was 15) but his mother put paid to that by marching into the enlistment office and refusing to let him join. Bert and Jim left for Egypt and France.
Jim who was a great horseman went to the 1st Light Horse Regiment. He was stationed in Africa and was discharged after 1097 days for being medically unfit not due to misconduct and was repatriated to Australia. Jim had been in the African desert and had been brought down by malaria, which he would suffer with the rest of his life.
Malaria had struck the camp and of sixty men only two survived. Jim and another of his mates had by sheer luck been placed at the front of the medical tent they were put in and had been able to get fresh air and a breeze that saved their lives.
Three of their first cousins, brothers, Herbert, Walter and Ernest would also sign up. Herbert and Walter were tragically killed at Gallipoli and Ernest died in 1918 back in Australia as a result of his war service. The loss to their parents (William and Charlotte Fowles) of three beautiful sons, unimaginable and even now heart-wrenching to think about. As I understand it their parents were bereft the remainder of their lives.
I wrote down what my grandmother told me about war and soldiers and I think putting it here is as good a spot as any. “ What bears remembering is that these boys (her family) were brothers, sons, cousins, they all went to war. Back home were Mum’s and Dad’s, sisters, brothers, wives and sweethearts”.
Back in Australia young Laura Fowles was writing letters to the Advocate in Melbourne which gave details of her daily life and that of her brothers fighting overseas.
From Letters to Aunt Patsy, Advocate (Melbourne) 15 April 1916; Ferndale, via Warragul, April 13 1916. Dear. Aunt Patsy,— This is the first letter I have written to the Children’s Corner, although I read the letters in it every week. I am 13 years of age, and in the seventh grade at school. I have four sisters and four brothers. I am the youngest of the family. I was only nine months old when my father died. (R.I.P.) Two of my brothers are soldiers — one in the 8th Brigade in Egypt, the other in the 4th Light Horse . I pray God that this cruel war will soon end. What a blessing it will be to have peace in the world again ! ‘P. Khakee’s’ letters were very interesting. I am sending a P.N. for 3/6 for Easter eggs for the orphans. I hope they are all well. Wishing you a happy Easter, and with love to C., F.M., and yourself,— I remain, your affectionate niece ,LAURA. AGNES FOWLES. 3/6 gratefully received for captain’s ‘Easter Egg’ basket, Laura. May God grant a safe return to your brave brothers. The children’s corner, .
During 1917 Lily and John’s son James was injured. From the West Gippsland Gazette, 5 Jun 1917; District News (from our Correspondents) Ferndale; Mrs L. M. Fowles has been informed by the Defence Department, that her son, Trooper J. Fowles is in hospital suffering from burns but a later cable from the young soldier himself brings the reassuring news that he is very little the worse for the injury. INJURED; Dvr. J. H. Fowles, ‘Fcrndalc. 18th May 1917. (Australian Imperial Forces).
From The Children’s Corner, Letters to Aunt Patsy, Advocate, Melburne, 21st July 1917; Dear Aunt Patsy, I am, now re-turning postal note for 5/. I hope you. will be crowned queen. I was at a nigger minstrel entertainment last night in aid of the British Red Cross. It was a great success. The men had black faces and pink and white striped clothes. There has been a lot of rain here, but floods never harm us. I had letters from my brother’s last mail. One is at Gaza, and the other in France. They were both well at time of writing. Bert was a year in France on the 26th of June. It is two years today since he enlisted. He was a long time in Egypt before he went to France. Jim sent some nice pressed flowers from the Holy Land. He told us one of the New Zealanders, made a new street in Gaza with one of their big guns they captured from the Turks. They think it is a great joke to make a new street in a city over two thousand years old ! I will now conclude. With best wishes to the crew, the captain, first mate, and yourself,— I remain, your loving niece, LAURA A. FOWLES.
Many grateful thanks, ‘Laura, for your kind help with the Ambulance appeal. It was nice to got some flowers from the land where the holy feet of Our Divine Lord once trod.,
When the war was over and both Bert and Jim came home they told their family only what they wanted too. Both had had enough of war. One thing that Jim did say was that one of the hardest things he’d had to do was shoot his horse before leaving Africa. Being a ‘horseman’ himself this must have been a cruel chore.
Bert had been in France where he had ‘caught some shrapnel’ and was sent to England to rehabilitate. Once recovered he was sent back to France again. Given what we know today about the fighting in France I think it was a miracle he came home at all.
From West Gippsland Gazette, 9th April, 1918; SEA VIEW HONOR ROLL.TO BE SHORTLY UNVEILED The residents of Sea View and surrounding districts some time ago decided to immortalise, as far as possible, the names of their sons who had answered the Empire’s call to arms by subscribing to an “Honor Roll,” which, has now been completed, and is on view in Cromie and Co.’s window at Queen-street corner.
The “Honor Roll,” or rather the wood on which, it is inscribed, is a very handsome piece of work. It measures about 6 x 41 feel. and is built of blackwocd. It is designed in four panels. upon which the names of the soldiers of the Empire are inscribed in gold letters. Flanking the panels on either side are two bold Doric columns in fiddleback, and surmounting all is a beautiful scroll and carved wreath of Gippsland wattle blossom. The panels contain 54 names, well known and respected by every resident of the district. The sad note is revealed in the golden star over several names-, which denote the soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice.
Their memory will ever be cherished, and this Honor Roll, for generations to come will speak to the men and women of Sea View and all who gaze upon it, of the gallant deeds done by those brave men to save the Empire at a time when the forces of evil were trying to overthrow every vestige,of right and justice and even civilisation itself.
The “Roll of Honor” is as follows: Killed. W. L. Arnold II. J. Misson F. B. Arnold P. J. McGrath W. Ashcroft T. A. McDonald C. Connors L: A. K. McDonalI B. Dwyer W. Allman D. M. McGrathJ. J. Bates N. R. McLarty J. E. Brown A. Mih’ams W. Brown B. Misson J. Baxter L. Misson J. S. Clough R. Muir H. Dwyer L. Monk A. Dalziell S. Polkinghorne A. Edwards — J. Richardson N. Edwards W. Sutcliffe A. W. Fowles 0. Sagasser J. H. Fowles J. Smith R. L:Graham R. Smith M. Geary J. Wallace S. Gibb’s E. Walsh H. Harvey W. J. Woods :A. Jolmson W. Wryatt R. King N. J Watt J. Jones W. Marne M. Larkin C. Willis A. W. AlcDona’d P. J. Whelan
Ferndale to Warragul:
From the Sands & McDougall’s Directory of Victoria (1919) – says of the Fowles of Ferndale: Ferndale – rail to Warraagul 61 1/4 miles thence 18 miles by coach. Shire of Warragul, County of Buln Buln – Fowles Lily M.
My grandmother often reiterated how much importance there was in having a tight community and lamented its absence in bigger towns in later years of her life.
One time there were two Swaggies doing a bit of work on the farm for Lily, which was not unusual and she was well known for giving a bit of work to passing fellows particularly during the depression years.
In point of fact it was just this generosity of spirit of hers which brought about my grandparents meeting but that is for another story.
On this particular day the Swaggies were at work out in the paddock and decided to break for a bit of smoko so built themselves a wee fire for their billy tea.
It was apparently a stinking hot day so these two fellows probably didn’t know much about not lighting fires on these sorts of days as the locals surely would have. Anyway that little fire got away and quickly took off across the dry paddock.
The fire raced across several paddocks and was heading up perilously close towards the house. My grandmother said you could see the smoke for miles and you could not know how glad it made your heart to see your neighbour’s come riding and running up the road ripping green tree branches off the trees as they came and bringing up wetted hessian bags to put the fire out. Fortunately the house was saved.
Many a dance was held at the hall in nearby Sea View. The girls would get all of their finery together and put it all neatly into a hessian bag including their shoes. Then they would don their everyday gear and boots and go either on the dray with their brother’s riding alongside or with them until they go to the hall. There were lanterns put onto the dray for light. All the way there would be much excited talk and singing and a good bit of joking about.
Upon arrival they would all pour into the hall where the ladies would all disappear into the cloak room to don their ‘get up’ before coming out to greet their fellow neighbour’s and friends at the dance. The dance would go well into the night with dancing and the music all provided by the locals both by fiddle, tin whistle, banjo and piano. Those that could sing would and all of the young people would turnabout take their turn at the piano or any bit of musical instrument they could claim a working knowledge of.
One of my most grandmother’s most favourite pieces of musics was the Blue Danube Waltz. Halfway through the night they would all stop for ‘supper’ which would have been whatever the young people brought along in the way of cakes, etc. The ‘do’s’ were always chaperoned in those days apparently, but I’ll bet the older people would have gone along to enjoy the social opportunity and fun for as much as any other reason.
At the end of the proceedings the girls would again disappear into the cloak room and again emerge in their everyday gear for the trip home, tired and happy.
The following whilst it does not mention John and Lily specifically does talk from a known neighbour of their’s point of view as to what life was like in early Ferndale;
From the West Gippsland Gazette, 29 December 1925; Our Old Pioneers; GRADUALLY THINNING OUT, MR. J. T. ASHCROFT .Time is continually thinning out the ranks of our old pioneers, and one of the latest to leave the district is Mr J. T. Ashcroft, of Sea View .Mr Ashcroft recently sold his property and has gone to Mildura. Before leaving he was entertained by his friends and presented with a gold-watch and chain, his daughter Marjory a gold armlet, and his son Charles, and sleeve links.
“Yes,” said Mr Ashcroft, “things are very different to what they were when I came to Warragul and Sea View. We had only a pack track when I took up. 200 acres at Sea View. That was on 4th January, 1884. Twenty-one years later I bought another 100 acres off Mr Effield Cropley, who selected alongside of me at the same time. In those days we dealt in cash and I paid him £800 cash for his 100 acres. I was the first to take a wheeled vehicle up to McDonald’s track. Yes, I established the store, and carried it on for 14 years. The only other pioneer now at Sea View is ex-Cr Frank Arnold.
There are not many left between there and Warragul, in fact only one, and that is William Johnston, at Bull Swamp. The other pioneers out there are:-. Mr F. Gilbertson, Ferndale, Mr Mick Walsh, Ferndale, Mr John Graham, Ferndale, Mr Bert Fowles, Ferndale.
“Yes, Effield Cropley and I went to the same Land Board 40 years ago. We both rode on the same horse, and we were happier in those days, than now. With all our difficulties of no road and mud, we were as happy as Larry. There was no growling and everyone buoyed up with hope for the future. They used to say, if they only had roads, they would think they were in Heaven.
And now that we have got them, what has happened? All the boys and girls of the pioneers are gone. Where are young fellows? What are we coming to when the sons want to get into the railways or police, and the daughters to become typists or dressmakers or singers? Not one wishes to be a dairyman, or for that matter a dairyman’s wife. And why? Because the towns and city life are made so attractive with parks and gardens, pictures, theatres and dances and the girls get good wages, and nice clothes; while as the daughters of dairymen on the farm, it is next to impossible to pay wages at all.
The prices of produce will not permit of it. And so I don’t know what it’s coming to later on. Children today are free and independent, unlike the olden days, and being able to go out and earn their own money in the towns, they naturally will not work in the mud and water of the farms. The boys also, with some exceptions prefer the city life. The only way to improve things and keep young fellows on the land is to ensure better prices for produce and reasonable recreation and enjoyment in their own districts.
They were not kidding about those old bush roads being unpredictable here is a photograph given to me by my grandmother of an Essex that got bogged out the front of their place at Ferndale in the mud.
Emily Warne passed away in 1930 she was John’s dear sister and the lady who delivered my grandmother as the local midwife. She was very highly regarded by all of her relations and it would appear the district. I was given to understand that she was a great friend to Lily throughout their lives.
From The West Gippsland Gazette; 7th January 1930. The Passing Pioneers; LIFE’S TASKS COMPLETED.ENTERING THE LARGER LIFE. One by one the old pioneers of the district are passing on and the latest is Mrs. Emily Warne, the wife of Mr. William Warne, of Mason Street,Warragul, one of the oldest pioneers of this district.
The family settled at Allambee over forty years ago when roads were almost unknown, and those that were made, were of the roughest nature. The late Mrs Warne was the mother of a family of eleven children, all of whom are still living, with the exception of one son, Ralph, who was drowned some years ago.
Each member of the family was present at the graveside, with the exception of Mr. Warne, who is far from well. The service at the cemetery was conducted by the Rev.J. Smith, a retired minister of the Methodist Church, now residing in Warragul, and the funeral was attended by a great number of mourners and friends of the family.
Rev.Smith made reference to the sterling character of the late Mrs. Warne, who had been one of the brave women who had assisted their husbands to open up this part of Gippsland, and said her life provided an example to them all. The death of Mrs Warne occurred on Saturday, December, 28, just three days after Christmas, her age being76 years. She was able to converse with her family on Christmas Day and each member as they came to the old home some from distant places brought some small contribution to the Christmas pudding.
Mrs Waddell, who has returned home every Xmas for the past 26 years, was again in her place at the family table, though on this occasion, without Mr Waddell, who passed away during the year. The late Mrs. Warne leaves behind her the following members of her family :- Emily (Mrs. Waddell), Harry, William, Eliza (Mrs. Davidson), Martha (Mrs. Arnup), Henry.Lily (Mrs. Fink), Agnes (Mrs. Stewart), Florence and Nelly. She had 34 grandchildren and three great grand-children. By a strange coincidence, two of Mrs. Warne’s brothers have died within the month. They were Mr.Bert. Fowles. of West Tarwin, and Mr. William Fowles, of Dandenong.
The following year in February 1931 another friend, family and supporter of Lily’s and Johns passed on. Henry Alfred Fowles who was always known as Uncle Harry to the kids and Harry Fowles to everyone else about the district died aged 75. Harry had come with John to the new country to select and open it up for farming.
From the West Gippsland Gazette; 10th February 1931. Mr Fowles who passed away last week at his home in Warragul, was a well known pioneer of the district, whose familiar face at the sale yards and elsewhere, will be missed.
Harry came to the Ferndale district about forty years ago, when that part of Gippsland, in those early days, was on the very verge of civilisation. His property was almost inaccessible . Only pack horses could reach it and all provisions and goods had to be taken by pack horse. Harry Fowles was a man of stirling character.
He had no tricks whatsoever and was as straight as an arrow in all his dealings. He was a member of a numerous family of brothers and one sister; John and Bert Fowles were his neighbours in the Ferndale district and his sister, Mrs William Warne and her husband, were also near neighbours.
He was a great supporter of the Warragul Agricultural Society and some time ago was made a life member. Harry Fowles was well known in the sale yards, for he loved dealing in cattle. He leaves a widow and three sons and three daughters. ( I have edited the above for brevity and must point out that there was another sister Hannah, who having never moved to Gippsland may not have been known of).
Of the children of John and Lily Fowles; Bill married a local school Teacher Vera Moore and they conducted a farm opposite his mother’s. Bill tried modern machinery in dairying before it became popular, I guess heralding in new methods in farming in the area.
Neither Jack nor Lila married. Jack continued on dairy farming acquiring several properties. For many years Lila kept house for them both.
Anne married John McLoughlin and moved to Tasmania. For reasons I cannot fathom John and Lily did not give Anne a middle name so she took the name Josephine for her confirmation and used it from thence on. She was the twin to her sister Emily. Both Emily and Anne were delivered by their aunt Emily Warne.
Emily married Wally Scott and they moved out to Bena where they carried on farming. Emily was known far and wide as one of the best cake cooks that could be found reputedly.
After the war Jim carried on a dairy farm near his family. He first married Mary Agnes Swenson who very sadly died soon after the birth of their only child, a little girl. Jim and Mary had grown up together and known each other since they were children. Some years later Jim married another local girl Catherine Masterson.
His sister Mary would later marry Catherine’s brother George. Mary and George farmed at Ferndale at their property Glendalough. I knew ‘Auntie Maree’ through my younger life and she was to my mind a superb and kind woman and another fantastic cook!
Bert married Ruth Slade and they went out to farm at Bena. My grandmother described her brother as one of the most easygoing men she’d ever met.
Laura stayed on the farm with her mother to care for her until after her death. After Lily passed on she married Pat Moss (Joseph Patrick Moss) a city boy from Melbourne and for some years they farmed in Korrumburra before moving out of the Gippsland area.
The Fowles children of John and Lily all lived to be a good old age. Left to right, back to front. Jack, (John Patrick – ), Bert, (Albert William), Jim (James Henry), Bill (William Francis), Laura Agnes (Moss), Em (Emily Alice (Scott), Anne Josephine (Mclaughlin), Maree (Mary Jane (Masterson), Lila (Lily Mary).
Lily died at her home in Ferndale on the 28th August 1937. She was aged seventy-four.
Lily is buried with John in the Roman Catholic section of the Warragul Cemetery, Plot C3 128. The inscription on the headstone reads; Sacred to the memory of our beloved parents John George Fowles, Died 21st March 1903 aged 43 years and his devoted wife Lily Mary died 28th August 1937 aged 74 years.
From the West Gippsland Gazette; 31st August 1937. Fowles. Mrs. L.M. at Ferndale: The death occurred at ‘Everglade’, Ferndale on Saturday evening of Mrs L.M. Fowles, an old and highly respected resident of the district where she had lived for the past forty-two years. Deceased was aged seventy-four years at the time of her death. Being of a kindly and charitable disposition, she was popular with all the district residents who will regret her passing. She leaves a grown up family to mourn their loss. viz. Lily M, John, Albert, James, Mary (Mrs. G. Masterson), Anne (Mrs Mcloughlin), Emily (Mrs. Scott), William, Laura, Daphne (Mrs. Robertson); There was a large attendance at the funeral on Monday afternoon when the remains were interred in the Warragul Cemetery. Rev. Father Buckley officiated at the church and graveside. M.A. McGilton Pty ltd carried out the funeral arrangements.
So, what happened to Everglade after Lily died?
Well after Lily died her daughter Mary and her son in law George bought Everglade and added it to their property Glendalough which they farmed for many years. After George died Mary kept on farming with her children for some years before she eventually went off the farm also. The property was sold up.
Everglade nowadays is part of Clearview farm which holds the distinction of being a bed and breakfast country retreat. I believe some of the farmhouse original features are still there and it now provides respite for travelers seeking a break.
I think Lily would probably get a bit of a kick out of knowing that her home still welcomes all. She might also like the following which appears in Clearview’s advertisement: all the things that Lily was passionate about!
The farm is located on Van Ess Road, Ferndale in Victoria.
‘Clearview Farm is located in the magnificent Strezlecki Ranges, a uniquely Australian mountain bush setting. Just the right setting and atmosphere to unwind and relax. A 30 acre organic farm with apple orchard, free range poultry, cottage garden and a 50 seat restaurant serving gourmet country food. ‘