William Bellingham Cairnes and his family : Victorian Pioneer, Australia

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Category: W B Cairnes

12. Mary Matthews nee Browne 1821 -1903

Mary Matthews ne Browne,

Mary Matthews ne Browne,

Mary Matthews is my second great grandmother. She was born in Nottingham in 1821. The above photograph is the only one so far found, kindly sent to me by the Castlemaine Historical Society. It was sent to them by a Bev Swift in 1993. Mary was also her great great grandmother. Another unknown undiscovered second cousin of mine. There are so many.

Mary arrived in Australia, age 33, with her husband Robert, age 34, and her daughter Elizabeth Mary, age 12, in Adelaide, on October 27th, 1854, on the  ship Lord Raglan after 99 days at sea, having departed from Plymouth. A description of the journey and conditions can be found here. This ship was built in 1854 , so this may well have been its maiden voyage. It was later used to transport convicts to Western Australia in 1858.

(The spelling Mathews was used in earlier years and then becomes Matthews.)

On this voyage, The Lord Raglan carried:  passengers 223 English, 54 Irish adults, 65 English and 10 Irish children, 11 English and 1 Irish infant.

In the 1851 England census, they had been living at Ratcliffe on the Wreak, Leicestershire. Robert’s occupation was Farm Labourer. The census also said Robert had been born at Ratcliffe on the Wreak, Mary in Nottingham, and Elizabeth in Thrussington , which lies between Nottingham and Leicester.

Ratcliffe on The Wreak. Church of St Botolph

Ratcliffe on The Wreak. Church of St Botolph

So far there are no other family details for either Robert or Mary.

It can be assumed that both were literate as indicated by their future occupations.

I knew nothing of this woman, other than her only child, Elizabeth Mary, was my great grandmother. Whilst searching details  for Elizabeth I came across  http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/static/WomensPetition/pdfs/178.pdf , the 1891 Universal Suffrage Petition which had been signed by both my great grandmother and my 2nd great grandmother. The listing for Mary had been spelled incorrectly and I was able to submit a correction. It was a source of great pride to find that these two women had signed the petition. I hope both their husbands supported their wish for democratic rights.

It was also the first time I had known Mary was associated with Castlemaine Hospital. My first assumption was that she had been a nurse perhaps. This I was grateful for, as it meant that many of those many many children her daughter bore, there had been some sort of expertise on hand!

The family’s arrival in Adelaide, was in the winter of 1854 and they moved to Castlemaine soon thereafter, at the height of the Victorian Goldrush.

In 2013 it was brought to my attention that a book had recently been published about the history of 6 families in Castlemaine.

The Wealth Beneath Their Feet: a Family on the Castlemaine Goldfields
By  Prof Marjorie Theobald

Imagine my delight to find the introduction mentions that the house the author lives in was first owned by a Robert Matthews and his wife Mary. I hope Marjorie doesn’t mind me quoting from her introduction.

“On closer inspection we discovered that our home has been a work in progress since the 1850’s, from tent dwelling diggers to city retirees like ourselves, dedicated to the task of restoring these unassuming monuments to the towns past. The back section is is a genuine four roomed miners cottage, not the estate agents ‘miners cottage”, one of the oldest and best preserved in the town. It is now completely hidden from view by a fenestrated redbrick curtain wall built in the 1960’s. The original structure was built between 1859 and 1861 by English immigrants Robert Matthews, a miner, and his wife Mary ( nee Browne) who was the first Matron of the Castlemaine Hospital. I the Castlemaine rate-books for 1858 they are living on the site in a tent, though they were possibly there earlier as their 15 year old daughter Elizabeth married William Bellingham Cairnes in February 1857. By 1861 the rate entry shows that a cottage has been built on the site. survey in 1862, the site became section 147, allotments 3 and 4 and in December of that year Matthews purchased the land from the Crown at auction. As the first purchaser from the crown, Robert Matthews’ name remains on the parish map in perpetuity. Presumably he held the land on a miner’s right, ( why else would he build a substantial brick and stone cottage?) but chose to purchase the site at auction when it became available.”

In fact William Bellingham Cairnes married Elizabeth on February 9, 1856, when he was just shy of 25 and she had just turned 15. Looking at the photograph of Elizabeth below, taken just 4 years later, I can imagine she was a Castlemaine beauty of the time. It was a roughshod town and I would venture that Robert and Mary would have been glad to have her ‘spoken for’ at the earliest opportunity.  There may have been many a gentleman caller at their tent on Ten Foot Hill hoping for the wide eyed Elizabeth’s hand. And for such a young lass, moving about in a town full of lonely minors, getting wed would have brought peace to the family hearth. Marrying William Cairnes, at a time when those of different classes rarely married, would have been a huge jump in status, as many of William’s forebears were part of the Irish aristocracy. A step up, indeed, for the beautiful miner’s daughter.

1861. Earliest known photo of Elizabeth Matthews aged 19.

1861. Earliest known photo of Elizabeth Matthews aged 19. Inscription, written by WBC says : My darling wife Elizabeth Cairnes, when she was about 19 years old.


It is also registered in the rate-books that William  Cairnes was living behind the Matthews in a tent, and it is quite likely that they all lived on section 147 for some time. William and Elizabeth’s first born, William, was born  a year and a half later on August 24 1857. He was quite likely born in a tent, with his grandmother Mary as midwife.

Elizabeth continued to have a child on average every two years, until her last born, Thomas was born in 1884.

In order for Robert to be able to afford to build one of the first substantial miner’s cottages in Castlemaine, he must have done comparatively well at mining. There are no records so far found but it can be assumed they transitioned from the years of the goldrush in relative comfort. Their only son in law William, who came from a highly educated prosperous Northern Irish family, is found trading as an undertaker as early as 1856 as Cairnes and Goodall. He then went on to own his own Funeral Service Business, made coffins, owned an Ironmongery on Mostyn St and sold furniture. He must have contributed a large proportion to the family’s income too. Robert Matthews is also mentioned as being a Saddler. Further on, in 1875, when WBC moves his family and business to Echuca, Robert takes over the Undertaking business for sometime.

At some point the Matthews move to a property on Gingell St, and the Cairnes family move into a large space on Mostyn St where WBC also ran his business.

Earlier in 2013 I requested research by the Castlemaine Historical Society. Below is an extract from the report sent to me.

Mary Matthews and her career as Matron 1870-1891

Castlemaine Hospital, Victoria in the 1870's

Castlemaine Hospital, Victoria in the 1870’s

“A previous correspondent( Ed: Bev Swift)  to the Castlemaine Historical Society has provided some key information, including a photograph, that suggests Mary’s maiden name was Brown or Browne. She also provided a copy of a page from a booklet that mentions Mary.

There are numerous index entries for Matthews and it seems there were at least four Matthews families in the district. I have included all the index entries that are relevant to Robert and Mary Matthews . 

I have confirmed that Mrs Mary Mathews was Matron of the Castlemaine Hospital for 21 years from 1870 to 1892. Some references suggest she started as Matron in 1871 but the Mount Alexander Mail (MAM) newspaper extracts indicate that she was appointed matron 2nd June 1870

An item in the Mount Alexander Mail (2 June 1870) stated. “At the meeting of the Hospital Committee which takes place this evening amongst other business will be the dealing with applications for the Matronship of the institution. It would be well if the Corporation would adopt a system of training so that in rotation each Wardswoman may hope to attain the head position. We have not heard of a single applicant for the vacancy but no doubt many names will be submitted this evening. It is strange if the one who held hitherto a more subordinate position is not fit for the one step higher but these gradations do not seem to be recognised. A spirit of emulation excited in the direction suggested would necessarily prove beneficial to the Hospital.”

The next day the MAM said “Mrs Mathews was appointed Matron of a number of applicants” (MAM 3/6/1870).

Mary was not the first Matron at the hospital – that honour goes to a Miss Callaghan who served between 1866-1870. Mary however, was certainly a significant figure for a long period of time. The woman who followed Mary was the first registered nurse (Mrs Lloyd) to fill the matron’s position and so it seems that Mary was not a formally trained nurse.

The Bumford Hospital Index has several entries for Mary Mathews (see following index entries). One entry indicates that she resigned due to “failing health”. On her retirement two articles appeared in the Mount Alexander Mail newspaper. On 1st Sep 1891 an ‘Item of News’ said “The officers and servants of the Hospital, in acknowledgment of the kindly feeling always shown to them by Mrs Mathews, the late matron, have been for some time past engaged in raising subscriptions from friends of that lady. They have decided to present Mrs Matthews with the result of their labours tonight at the Hospital board-room.”

On 2nd Sept 1891 an article in the MAM was headed “Presentation at the Hospital” A copy is attached.

Mary’s husband, Robert Mathews, died 1st June 1896. His residence at that time was Gingell St Castlemaine. The old Castlemaine Hospital was also in Gingell St, near the intersection with Thomas Street. In the rates index another Robert Matthews is recorded as owning land at Ten Foot Hill at the south end of Castlemaine in 1869 (Section 147 allotment 4). I cannot be 100% certain that this is your man but at face value it appears to be him. However, a news item in the MAM (13 November 1876) indicates that a Mr. Matthews of Ten Foot Hill was leaving town – the allotment number is the same as recorded in the 1869 rate record.

We know that your Robert Matthews died in Gingell St Castlemaine so perhaps there were two people named R. Matthews and both were miners?? The map above shows the location of the Gingell st property – red arrow points to Allotment 14 Section 115 which was the residence of Mary and Robert Matthews.”

Robert  and Mary Matthews in fact moved from the Ten Foot Hill miners cottage to Gingell St and remained there till Roberts death on May 29, 1896.

News Item: 30 May 1896

Items of News. There died at Gingell street yesterday morning an old and respected pioneer in the person of Mr. Matthews, who had been ailing for a long time. Deceased who was 76 years of age leaves a widow, who for a lengthy period was the much-esteemed matron of the Castlemaine Hospital. The remains of the deceased are to be interred at Campbells Creek tomorrow afternoon.

27 March 1902  Castlemaine Item of News. Old Age Pensions Mary Matthews Refused on the ground that she had £50 in cash.

In 1903 Mary moved to Yarrawonga to live with her only daughter Elizabeth and her family. 

5 May 1903  Items of News.

News was received in Castlemaine yesterday of the death of Mrs.MaryMatthews, at the residence of her son-in-law, Mr. W.B. Cairnes, Yarrawonga at the age of 82 years. The deceased was very well known & respected by the older inhabitants of the town, she having filled the position of matron at the Castlemaine Hospital for 21 years, resigning in 1892. She was very popular with all classes and it was only when her health began to fail that she handed in her resignation to the Committee who accepted with sincere regret. In order to show their appreciation ofher valuable services to the institution and the Committee inaugurated a public testimonial, with the result that £60 was handed to her at a social held in the boardroom. The remains of the deceased lady were brought to Castlemaine last night,and were taken to the Hospital. The funeral will take place this afternoon and the remains will be interred in the Campbells Creek Cemetery, In the same grave as those of her husband, who died here almost 7 years ago.

Mary’s life in Australia had been a successful, and respected one in the small community of Castlemaine. From arriving and living in a tent to well regarded Matron. Her dear daughter married well and gave her 15 grandchildren, and a son in law who was prosperous and clearly loved his wife to the end.

Elizabeth followed her mother at the somewhat premature age of 67, only six years later.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Helen Mabel  Dind . (nee Steel) Passed away peacefully on 27 August 2014, aged 100. She was the last of W B Cairnes grandchildren, a contemporary of my father. 

I was privileged to be at her 100th birthday in 2013 and glad to have been welcomed by her large and loving family.


11. Montgomery Cairnes 1789 -1877

Montgomery Cairnes about 1800

A Gold Brooch of Montgomery Cairnes – about 1815 when in his early 20’s.

Back of Brooch. 8cmcx 5cm. Probably made as a keepsake for his mother.

Back of Brooch. 8cmcx 5cm. Probably made as a keepsake for his mother. Thanks to Colin Montgomery Cairnes for the photos.

Montgomery Cairnes was born on April 15, 1789 in County Tyrone, Ireland. He was born in turbulent times. He was the 4th of 7 children.

It was the year of the French Revolution and that struck terror in the heart of those powerful families in Ireland that supported the British Monarchy and way of life. There were real fears that France may invade Ireland and  help the  Irish republicans .

Below are some wiki details of the times. One can understand why many of the landed gentry encouraged their sons to join the officer class.

“In 1789 the French Revolution occurred during which French peasants overthrew the monarchy. Out of the bloodshed emerged a new democratic French republic. For many peasant people across Europe, this new democracy concept was very appealing, since it gave the power to them and not to the aristocracy. In 1791, the newly installed French government offered military assistance to any group who wanted to overthrow their own King. This was very worrying for the surrounding monarchies of England, Spain, Germany and Austria and war soon broke out between them and France.
At the same time, a new organisation was formed in Ireland. Under Wolfe Tone, the United Irishmen (who consisted of Protestants and Catholics alike) declared their belief in a peaceful future for Ireland in which Protestants and Catholics could live together in peace and with equality. They wanted to set up a French-styled democratic republic in Ireland, which was independent of Britain. They quickly gained support, although some, most notably the newly-formed Orange Order which was set up to preserve loyalty to the monarchy, were against them.

Supporting French Republicanism was seen as treasonous by the British considering they were at war with France. Also, Britain was a constitutional monarchy, which meant that the King did not have absolute power. Therefore the British regarded themselves as already democratic. Because of these facts, the British saw the United Irishmen as a national threat to be disposed of.

In 1798, the British began attacking known United Irishmen, and murdering large numbers of Protestant and Catholic members. Tone realised that if they were going to have their rebellion, it would have to be now or never, before the British destroyed them. So a large rebellion began in the spring concentrated in counties Down, Antrim and Wexford. Several bloody battles took place at Antrim, Ballynahinch and Saintfield. The United Irishmen were finally defeated at the Battle of Vinegar Hill in County Wexford. Almost all the several hundred United Irishmen were slaughtered.

However, it was not over. In late 1798, the French sent reinforcements to Ireland and they landed at Mayo, in western Ireland. They invaded and took over the area and gained popular support among the local Irish who saw it as an opportunity to get a better government. The French and their Irish allies got as far as county Sligo before being defeated by the British. While the French were taken prisoner, the local Irish were massacred as a punishment for treason. Wolfe Tone committed suicide in prison whilst awaiting execution. Note that this was the last time a hostile army ever invaded Ireland.

Although the rebellion had been put down, it was clear that Republicanism in Ireland could not be ignored and serious changes were needed in the way Ireland was governed to ensure that such violence did not occur again.

The drastic action that was taken was the Act of Union, passed in 1800. It formed a new country (“The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland”) by uniting England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. A new flag – the Union Jack – was created for it which had components from the flags of each member state. All regional parliaments were abolished, and instead the entire UK was to be ruled from a centralised London parliament. For most Irish, there wasn’t a noticeable difference, but it meant the Irish government representatives could not pass laws on their own.”

Parents and Siblings

His mother was Catherine Moore of Moore Hall, County Down Ireland (1758-1838) , his father was John Elliot Cairnes of Saville Lodge, Tyrone (1745-1802 ).

Moore Hall, where Montys mother,Catherine Moore was raised.Burnt down in 1920's by republicans.

Moore Hall, where Monty’s mother, Catherine Moore, was raised. Burnt down in 1920’s by republican rebels.

They were all connected by marriage to some of the most influential landowners in Ireland. The Montgomery’s of Grey Abbey, The Bellingham’s of Castle Bellingham, The Woolsey’s of Priorland House, County Louth, the Beresfords of Waterford and the Menzies of Scotland. Many were educated at top ranking schools in England and then either Oxford or Cambridge and many were bought commissions in the military. Many were MP’s or went into the clergy.

His sister Ann Cairnes was born in 1783 but there are no details of her life. Perhaps she died in infancy.

His eldest Brother John Elliot Cairnes ( there were a few of them, the most famous being Prof John Elliot Cairnes the economist , son of Monty’s brother William) became a Colonel. He was involved with the Duke of Wellington , an Anglo Irish, in the Napoleonic wars.

His next brother, William, went into the brewery business with his father -in-law William Woolsey  and eventually set up his own brewery in Drogheda. He bought and lived in Stameen House which is now a hotel. The Brewery was eventually sold out of the family in the 1960’s and became Grants of Ireland. A gastro pub named Wm Cairnes was opened in 2012 in the dockland building where the original brewery was. One can still buy a boutique beer there. And you can still buy the tin sign shown below from here.

Drogheda Brewery

His younger brother, Alan Bellingham, was also in the military and died age 19 , at the Siege of Badajoz, Spain, fighting Napoleon.

His youngest living brother Henry ( George ) Moore Cairnes lived till he was 82 and died in Armagh.  Two of Henry’s sons migrated to Australia a little after WBC in the mid 1800’s.  They were Elliott Moore Cairnes and Claudious Beresford Cairnes.

Finally, his younger brother James Elliot Cairnes died in infancy.

It is not clear where his military training was, although he started in the 50th Regiment and then the 60th regiment  based in England.

His Wife and Family

It is uncertain when exactly or at what age Montgomery moved to Quebec. He was moved from Lieutenant in the 50th Foot to Captain of the 60th in 1815, which was posted in Canada, so its likely he made his way to Canada in 1815/16 aged 26.

He married at age 27, in 1817, Theresa Holmes the 4th and youngest daughter of  William Holmes MD, the Surgeon General of Quebec. Dr Holmes had previously been a captain in the same regiment as Monty – the 60th.  Theresa and Monty were cousins.  She was 10 years his junior. William Holmes had been born Stewarts Town, County Tyrone, Ireland, and was related to the Cairnes Family. The Holmes family was extremely prosperous. Its who you know. Theresa’s mother was descended from one of the Filles du Roi, sent from France by the King in the mid 1600’s to marry the French settlers. Quite a pedigree.

Theresa Holmes Cairnes. Dublin approx 1860

Theresa Holmes Cairnes. Dublin approx 1860

His first child Mary Ann Arabella Cairnes was born in October 1818, in Summer Hill, Dublin. Sadly she died the following year 1819, aged 6 months. She is buried in Clontarf, Dublin.

His second, Catherine Matilda Cairnes was born  in August 1819 in Jersey. She dies aged 14, in 1833, at Miss Moores Boarding School, Dublin. ( note : is Miss Moore one of the Moores at Moore Hall? Monty’s mother was Catherine Moore of Moore Hall which was pretty much burned to the ground by Irish rebels in 1922, but thats another story)

William Henry Torrens Cairnes was born in Soho Square in London in 1820. He dies aged 15 months in Quebec, Lower Canada, in January 1822.

His second son Montgomery Cairnes was born June 1823, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He dies in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1842 aged 19, of Yellow Fever. Though the letter below in WBC’s album says simply the Indies. There is no record so far of why he was there.

Letter from  son,Montgomery, about 1840. In the WBC Album

Letter from son, Montgomery, about 1840. In the WBC Album

His third daughter Theresa Sophia was born on 1825 in Pimlico London.  She accompanied WBC on the ship to Australia in 1853 and shortly thereafter marries a Phillip Clements in Castlemaine Victoria in 1853. (Perhaps we can assume it was a marriage with someone known to the family back in Ireland . Perhaps WBC , who also settled in Castlemaine , had chaperoned her on the outward journey. It is unlikely that the two young Cairnes’ from such a high status Irish family would have travelled so far without a predetermined motive or destination.) She dies in Northcote, Melbourne, in 1911 aged 85.

And lastly his youngest son, my great grandfather, William Bellingham Cairnes who arrived in Australia aged 23 and lived till his 90th year.

Military Career.

an oil painting of Capt Montgomery Cairnes died-1877-dublin which was possessed by my fathers brother Alan Bellingham Cairnes

an oil painting of Capt. Montgomery Cairnes Dublin which was possessed by my fathers brother Alan Bellingham Cairnes

Monty was promoted from Leiutenant in the 50th Queens Own Rifle Corp to Captain of Company of the 60th in 1815.

By 1816 he was with the 60th Royal Rifle corps based in Quebec.

Monty was at some point Aide de Camp ( or Chief of Staff)  to the Lieutenant Governor in Lower Canada. Was this because Monty’s family had associations with the Surgeon General back in Ireland. It was indeed a highly responsible position and likely he served in this position after he married. And of course anyone could see he would look rather lovely in uniform, standing beside the Governor. A PR plus in anyones books.

Capt Montgomery  Cairnes age 29 postcard photo of what looks like a copy of the original oil of MC.

Capt. Montgomery Cairnes age 29 postcard photo of what looks like a copy of the original oil of MC.

See this link for more details:     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King’s_Royal_Rifle_Corps

The 60th were uniformed and equipped in a similar manner to other British regiments with red coats and cocked hats or grenadier caps,[5] but on campaign, swords were replaced with hatchets, and coats and hats cut down for ease of movement in the woods.

The Uniform he would have worn

The Uniform he would have worn

He was then in the 81st Regiment of Foot. Also garrisoned in Canada, though this regiment seemed to miss out on all the major skirmishes in the Americas and in Europe in the first half of the 1800’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/81st_Regiment_of_Foot_(Loyal_Lincoln_Volunteers)

Below are some postings found on the internet.

London Gazette September 7, 1815 Lieutenant Montgomery Cairnes of 50th Foot to be made Captain of Company in 60th Foot.. Without purchase, vice Knipe. Placed on half pay.

In the book A Good Wise Measure – The Search for the Canadian- American Boundary by Francis M Carroll,  Capt. Montgomery Cairnes , an engineer from the 81st Regiment, who was a member of the British party ( there were French, British and Americans doing the surveying) is mentioned in several pages. It says he was able to stave off starvation in the group by catching trout! The mention of him as a talented fisherman and an engineer resonates in many of his descendants in Australia. This all occurred in 1817/18 around the time he wed Theresa. This is a most interesting piece of information. Our Monty was on the spot when the borders of Canada and USA were surveyed. A great piece of history.

In the Military Register for Jan 31 1821, Montgomery Cairnes , Cork outbound to Nova Scotia is made a captain with the 81st Foot.

In 1844 an Epic National Poem “Fingal” was dedicated to Colonel John Elliott Cairnes. Captain Montgomery Cairnes, of 4, Dalymount Terrace was listed among the many subscribers, all who appear to be the great and good of Ireland and regions around.

Below are a couple of entries in the Melbourne Argos regarding the deaths of Montgomery and his wife, placed by William B Cairnes their only surviving son.

“Captain Montgomery Cairnes Aid de Com (sic) to Governor of Canada. Died approximately 1877.”

An oil painting of Theresa Holmes Cairnes which was in the possession of my fathers brother Alan Bellingham Cairnes

An oil painting of Theresa Holmes Cairnes which was in the possession of my fathers brother Alan Bellingham Cairnes

“On the 19th inst. at Castlemaine, Victoria,
Australia, Theresa, relict of the late Captain Mont-
gomery Cairnes, late aide-de-camp to Sir Ronald
Ferguson, in Holland, also aide-de-camp to Sir
George Don, Governor of Gibraltar, and beloved
mother of W. B. Cairnes, timber merchant, Yarra-
wonga, aged 88 years.

On the death of his father, WBC went back to Ireland for the first time in 24 years. His parents had spent their last decades without the company of their youngest offspring. WBC  brought his mother back to Australia 4 months later, where she was joined with both her daughter Theresa and her family, and William’s large family. I wonder what Theresa senior thought of the miners daughter her baby son had married. It would have been a far cry from the privilege she left behind in both Canada and in Ireland. The strictures of Class delineation would have well and truly been challenged.

Capt Montgomery Cairnes. Dublin. Approx 1850's

Capt Montgomery Cairnes. Dublin. Approx 1850’s

Poem written by Montgomery 1863

Poem claimed  by WBC to have been written by Montgomery in 1863, but its provenance has now been attributed elsewhere.

The poem is the third verse of a 3 verse hymn, the words were written by one Robert Grant MP – a contemporary of Montgomery, and were included in hymnals in 1835 and 1839. It is very poignant that M wrote out the verse given that he’d lost four (?) children …! I must thank Emily Deller ( WBC is her grt grt grandfather ) for this discovery.

8. The Western Australia Cairnes : more descendants of William Bellingham Cairnes.

A VISIT TO PERTH November 2013.

These last few weeks have been busy finding out more about the Cairnes family who had made their way to Western Australia. I was fortunate in being welcomed into this far off part of the family and have been gifted with many stories.

This enclave of WBC and Elizabeth’s descendants made their way to the Perth area as early as the mid 1890’s.

WBC had 7 sons. William, the eldest, born in  Castlemaine in 1858,  died age 23 in Echuca. The second son Montgomery, was born in  Castlemaine in 1862. He married Alice Duncan Allison in Wilcannia in 1885.

We think this maybe him. A very handsome young man. This and other photos are to be found in an Album of WBC’s that he had with him, in his last years. They now belong to Terry Cairnes in Melbourne. WBC is Terry’s Great Grandfather. Most of photographs from this album will be included throughout this blog.

Montgomery Cairnes 1862- ?

Montgomery Cairnes 1862- ?

Wilcannia is way out in North West NSW on the way to Broken Hill. There is, so far, no evidence as to why Montgomery was out in this area of the outback at this time.

I have discovered that Alice’s father , Cuthbert Allison, was a Wilcannia town clerk for some time, before moving to Broken Hill and taking up the same position there.It is possible he knew WBC as a peripatetic magistrate in NSW.

In New South Wales , for over a century, the chief administrative officer of a city or borough was also legally designated the Town Clerk.

I have been told  by Dick Cairnes, (Alice and Montgomery’s grandson) , that Montgomery died in 1894, aged 32.  I have searched all death records for all states and find no record for his death so far. I have not found out where he is buried either. Their marriage is recorded.  As is the birth of their eldest son, Cuthbert, in 1885, also in NSW. There is a pamphlet that WBC created in 1900, that lists his children – alive and dead. There is no mention of Montgomery as deceased at this date. Its a mystery.

The only other record of Montgomery is on TROVE where he is found as the secretary of the Corowa Rifle Club in the years 1890/91. It then shows him resigning this post for some reason. Their second son Harry is recorded as being born here.

The cause of his death remains a mystery. We do know from the family in Perth that Alice and Montgomery had  a total of 3 sons, and  I have also found a daughter. Cuthbert ( 1885 – 1962) , Elspeth Allison Cairnes ( 1888 – ?) Henry Montgomery

( Harry) ( 1890 – 1970),  and George Alexander ( Alec)( 1892 – 1972) – named after Montgomery’s younger brother.

Up until this now, there seemed no explanation  as to why Montgomery’s widow had made her way,  aged  29, all the way to Perth accompanied by  her very young children. The earliest record I have of Alice Cairnes in Perth, is in 1897, where she was practising midwifery. The family in WA don’t seem to know why either.

However, in my searches for her on Trove I find a G A Cairnes advertising in the Western Australian Newspaper. He was selling hardware, furniture, building materials etc. An explanation is that WBC’s fourth son George Alexander Cairnes, born in Castlemaine in 1869, must have also been in Perth, around the same time Alice took her children there. I have also found a Frank and Olive Cairnes in Perth around the same time. Olive was found there as a nurse and got married there to a bank manager, H G Dolohery. Frank and Olive are the offspring of Elliot Moore Cairnes, WBC’s cousin. E M Cairnes was a geologist and worked for the Victorian Govt. He is also found visiting Perth, advising on mining in the latter part of the 19th C. It is quite likely that these members of the extended Cairnes family were there as part of a general entrepreneurial mission to find work in a growing state. Fremantle was the first port of call, for ships arriving from Europe, and the countryside was opening up and the population rising.

The first records of the elder G A Cairnes, (Alice’s brother in law) advertising his wares in Perth was in 1898. By mid 1899 he is being taken to court and made bankrupt. I found these mentions of him on Trove.

Here is a picture of George as a young man.

George Alexander Cairnes 1869 - 1948

George Alexander Cairnes 1869 – 1948

This ties in with a serious recession in the Australian economy in the late 1890’s.  He would have been quite young (30) and inexperienced in the world of commerce and perhaps overreached himself.

Or perhaps both he and Montgomery both went to Perth to set up in the family Business of hardware and ironmongery. Perhaps Montgomery died in Western Australia. So far there are no records anywhere.

G A Cairnes continues to advertise for a few months then disappears from view. Presumably he returns to Victoria, where he eventually marries Emily Jane Ellison in 1911. They have 4 children. G A Cairnes the elder dies in Rutherglen Victoria in 1949, aged 80.

So it seems Alice had some extended family present in the area when she initially settled in Western Australia.

It is still a puzzle as to why Alice remains in Perth for the rest of her life. She never remarries, and continues to use her married name for the rest of her life and is seen in records running a midwifery business at 128/ 132 Nicholson Rd, Subiaco, Perth, for many years. So far there are no early photographs of this part of the family  found belonging to succeeding generations.

There are still descendants of those 4 children of Alice and Montgomery Cairnes living in the Perth area. A new arrival was born in Perth in late November 2013. Ironically his dad is French Canadian, as was WBC’s mother Theresa.

I very much appreciate the hospitality given me by Justine Dorval ( nee Cairnes ) and her Uncle Dick Cairnes.

Below are the links to all the other posts.


1. William Bellingham Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthews

2. The Castlemaine Years 1854 to 1873

3. Echuca and Moama 1874 to 1883

4. The Yarrawonga Years 1884 to 1909

5. Endings 1909 to 1923

6. Past Belongings : a digital collection of historical belongings to share

7. W B Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthew’s Children in Chronological Order

8.The Western Australia Cairnes

9. Helen Dind – WBC’s Granddaughter – 100 years – a Celebration

10. Keith Beresford Cairnes : 26 Years in Muston St Mosman

7. W B Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthew’s Children in Chronological Order

6. Past Belongings : a digital collection of historical belongings to share

9. Helen Dind – WBC’s Granddaughter – 100 years – a Celebration

100 years. A Long Life

Editor’s Note: Sadly Helen passed away a year after I wrote the post below.

DIND, Helen Mabel. (nee Steel) Passed away peacefully on 27 August 2014.
Loved wife of David (dec). Loving mother of John (dec) and Peter

It was a privilege to have met her and her lovely family.

The Steel family 1913. Helen is the Babe in Arms

The Steel family 1913. Helen is the Babe in Arms

 October 2013. Helen Dind. Formerly Steel. Born 1913.

Helen is William Bellingham’s last remaining grandchild. She turned 100 this month.
Some time last year I found someone on ‘myhistory.com’,  who shared a common thread in my paternal line: the Cairnes family. I discovered she was related to the younger sister  (Emily Bellingham Cairnes) of my grandfather, Henry Moore Cairnes ( Harry).
They came from a large pioneer family of 15 children raised in Castlemaine, Echuca, and Yarrawonga, from the 1850s onwards. Their parents were William Bellingham Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthews.
You can find out more about their lives in previous posts. There are links which you will find at the bottom of the page. Some will be found under the monthly headings.

On Monday , 8 October, 2013,
I had the privilege of attending the 100th birthday celebration of my father’s last remaining first cousin, Helen Dind, at the Manly Skiff Club, Sydney. It is a fine venue to have such a wonderful celebration. The club is surrounded on three sides with the lapping water of the rising tides, with a grand view of Manly wharf and of course the wonders of the glinting waters of the harbor and the busy comings and goings of the big old ferries provide a never – ending entertainment.
Not that that was noticed too much this day.
I had been kindly invited to attend, and I knew almost no one. I had only recently found this strand of my family, when I discovered a member of an online genealogy group, shared part of my family tree.

As a gift I had collected all relevant family photos , put them on a DVD and provided a link to this blog .

Helen is a tiny woman, though I can see from the deep and tender affection her 2 sons and all the extended family have for her, she inhabits a very large space in all their hearts.

I watched her carefully all afternoon. She seemed to inhabit a state of grace during the whole event; exuding love to all, with the most embracing smile coming and going on her beautiful face. Not once did she seem to withdraw her attention and she was absolutely present, and genuine with each and every guest.

I was soon introduced to her and I explained my connection to her. I said that my father had been close to her older brother Adrian Steel, and that they had spent much time together as children and teens getting into mischief and having adventures of the ‘ Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ type according to my fathers stories. (They remained friends until my fathers death and often visited each other in Sydney over the years as evidenced in my fathers diary.)
I got lots of smiles and was welcomed warmly. I knew she had many people to greet and didn’t press her to see what memories she may have had of my father. As there was only a 4 year difference I am sure they must have spent time together at family gatherings. I hope perhaps to meet her briefly again and see whether she has any stories of those early years.

I got to meet Bob Steel , the son of Adrian and was able to show ( on the trusty iPad) 2 photos of his father and mine as teens from the mid 1920’s.

Both Helens sons, Peter and John, were very welcoming, and everyone seemed to be pleased a ‘Cairnes’ was represented at the gathering! I was introduced to so many lovely people, who all had stories to tell of the family. The speeches given were fascinating windows into Helens long life.

I was not surprised by the warmth and welcome shown towards a strange and new family member by everyone I was introduced to.

At every point of connection I have made in my travels to broaden my family history knowledge , my extended family has invariably greeted my enquiries with kindness , warmth, and often, open affection, even though I was a total stranger. I recognize my father’s extraordinary generosity , hospitality, and openness as something he shares with others in his large and sprawling family.

I also witnessed the love of the wry, and dry sense of humour in the room. One of her sons began his introduction, citing some world events that had happened in the year of her birth- 1913. He wound up by reminding us that it was in 1913 that two great canals had opened….the Panama Canal…..and of course the opening of the birth canal of Emily Steel! – bringing their Helen into the world!

Helens Birthday cake and Happy Birthdays

Helens Birthday cake and Happy Birthdays

As the great cake was brought forth, the 30 strong assembly was called to song by one of her grandsons, accompanying himself on guitar.

Helen becoming 100 years, had brought a family group together, aged from toddler to centurion. The sense of warm continuity was palpable in the room.
The sun shone, the waves continued to rise over the rocks on the shore, and bump and splash the hulls of the boats that rocked and danced at their moorings.
All was well in those moments, and everyone left happier and I think , more radiant, after experiencing Helen’s beatific smiles.

As I write, I sit here on the 12 hour , 900+kl train journey to Melbourne, where I am about to meet 3 more second cousins, who I have only just discovered.
I can’t wait for the next installment of my family history adventure.

The beautiful Helen enjoying her song

The beautiful Helen enjoying her song

Below are the links to all the other posts


1. William Bellingham Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthews

2. The Castlemaine Years 1854 to 1873

3. Echuca and Moama 1874 to 1883

4. The Yarrawonga Years 1884 to 1909

5. Endings 1909 to 1923

6. Past Belongings : a digital collection of historical belongings to share

7. W B Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthew’s Children in Chronological Order

8.The Western Australia Cairnes

9. Helen Dind – WBC’s Granddaughter – 100 years – a Celebration

10. Keith Beresford Cairnes : 26 Years in Muston St Mosman






5. Endings 1909 to 1923

4. The Yarrawonga Years 1884 to 1909

3. Echuca and Moama 1874 to 1883

2. The Castlemaine Years 1854 to 1873

1. William Bellingham Cairnes and Elizabeth Matthews