10 May 2023

What is ok to share?

  Feeling a bit chuffed because I have finally come up with a new book idea. I’m still working on the biography of my great, great uncle Sir William George McBeath, but the going gets tough sometimes, and a little light relief is required – hence the new book.

My first cousin, three times removed died in the Kew Insane Asylum at the age of forty-seven.  He had been a “patient” there for seventeen years. His insanity? Epilepsy. Very sad to learn that this condition was considered a mental illness, and the only treatment was isolation in an asylum. His records are all digitised and make an enlightening read.

I feel strongly about telling his story, but by the same token protecting him as a person is paramount. In as much as his story needs telling, I decided to make it fiction, based on the facts I have gleaned from his records. So the character’s names are fictitious, as are the places. 

It’s a dual timeline story, with a present day archivist going through the files and learning about his situation.

Now the fun part. I NEED HELP. He was in the Kew Insane Asylum, but I’m not calling it by its real name in the book. Can you suggest names? If I choose one of those submitted, the person will receive a free copy when it’s published, and an acknowledgement in the foreword.

I came up with Dark Point Insane Asylum, or Green Tree Hills Insane Asylum, neither of which are inspiring. Over to you…..

08 January 2023

The biography marches on

Hi there. Welcome to 2023.

This year I am going to finish the biography of my great, great uncle Sir William George McBeath.  I didn’t work on it much in 2022 because I was consumed with a mystery series I was working on.  Great, great uncle William now has my undivided attention.

 Even though I had completed years of research, when I wrote the third book in the Cullen/bartlett family saga, “Time Tells All”, there were things I didn’t know. Fortunately contact with third cousins – via of all things, Ancestry – has given me access to more information. I knew my great, great grandfather, David Francis McBeth (McBeath) – William’s father – had drowned in the Maitai River in Nelson New Zealand, but I wasn’t aware of the tragic circumstances that saw young ten-year-old William witness his father’s death. One can only wonder about the resilience of a young man who loses his father this way, but then goes on to be an astute businessman and clever political influencer.

One aspect of young William’s life that has raised differences of opinion, is his education. In Who’s Who of Australia (1927) the entry records William as being educated at Nelson College in New Zealand. Research into the College reveals it was a secondary school, which accommodated boarders. William’s mother left New Zealand and returned to Melbourne soon after his father’s death. For William to have been education at Nelson College, he would have remained in New Zealand.  He is not listed on the passenger list with his mother and siblings, on their return to Melbourne. I have it from a very reliable source, that Who’s Who of Australia interviewed the person whose entry went into the book. So William must have told the editors where he was educated. I did contact Nelson College, but of course the records relating to the time he would have attended the school, were lost in a fire in 1904.

 The family story is that William sold newspapers on the family’s return to Melbourne, to help his mother financially. But that does not seem likely. David Francis McBeath had a five hundred pound life assurance policy which named Elizabeth as beneficiary.

23 April 2022

The art of story telling

This is part of a piece from the Bacchus Marsh Express, Saturday 23rd April 1892. Applicable, seeing as today is Saturday, 23rd April :) The house mentioned in the article, is the one in the picture. It was burnt down (deliberately by vandals) in the 1990s.)

"To return from this digression. Having arrived

at the now thoroughly appointed Rockbank homesteading the query was put to a man working in the garden "Is Mr. Mitchel at home?" to which question receiving an affirmative …Making my way to a commodious brick building of very elegant exterior, partaking of the dual character of villa and mansion, I stepped across a spacious verandah and put the knocker into requisition. In a brief space the door was answered by the Manager in person, but as I have never arrived at the dignity of pasteboard the introduction had to be a verbal one. Knowing the power of the fourth estate I supplemented it with "I am Ramrod, of the Express, and have come to ask permission for a day's shooting." Receiving a cordial invitation to enter, I was piloted down a wide, handsome, delightfully cool hall to the office, a large room replete with every clerical appliance. Before we were well seated, Mr. Mitchel, with the hospitality characteristic of the old" pastoral era, said "have you had breakfast ?" a query which elicited the reply "yes, thank you." 

...and I was delighted to find that the frank unassuming man that sat before me was one of those geniuses that we do not meet with every day."


I will be speaking of "Mr Mitchel" at 2pm on 30th April at Melton Library, for the Heritage Festival.

30 March 2022

What lockdown?


Seems such a long time ago, but here in Victoria, it’s only the end of 2021 that we exited lockdowns of some sort or other.

What did you do during your time locked in the house? Did you still go out to work? Did yo work from home? Did you start a new hobby? Something I did (out of necessity) was learn how to get around ZOOM!!!! And it continues. Seems as if many organisations are opting for the Zoom meetings now.

I’m a member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group – to be a member your ancestor must have arrived in the colony of Port Phillip (Victoria) prior to the gold rush (1851). My 3x great grandparents William Blay and Margaret (nee Tedder) arrived around the end of 1840, to the beginning of 1841. Their names do not appear on any shipping lists, so I can’t be sure when they set foot in the tent township of Melbourne. However, their fourth daughter, Elizabeth (my 2x great grandmother) was born in the Colony in June 1841. Hence, they are Port Phillip Pioneers. Anyway, one good thing about the Zoom meetings is that some organisations, like PPG, are continuing to use Zoom, which enables those who can’t get to the quarterly meetings, an opportunity to be part of the proceedings.

Now Vision Australia is helping me come to terms with my new world, I’m on Zoom for a meeting of some sort every other day. (Not quite, but it feels like it.) It can be a wonderful way to learn new things and be part of groups/communities, but I hope Zoom doesn’t become the only way people get together.

What is coming up?

I’m writing an article on William Blay for the Port Phillip Pioneers Group newsletter. Am still working through the biography of Sir William George McBeath (2x great uncle) have been side-tracked with new research, and preparing a talk for Heritage Month, which I’ll do on 30th April at Melton Library. The Heritage Month talk will focus on James McAra Mitchel, (pictured) manager of the Rockbank Sheep Station in the 1880s. He was married to my 2x great aunt, Mary Hamilton Allan. The sheep station was owned by Sir William John Clarke, and covered 54,000 acres. For those familiar with the western suburbs, the station ran from Sunbury, where Salesian College now occupies the Rupertswood mansion, to William Taylor’s property in Keilor (now Taylors Lakes), Staughton’s property (Eynesbury) and down to the Werribee River. Quite substantial. McAra Mitchel was a complicated and clever fellow who had a very sad ending.

Till next time 


What is ok to share?

  Feeling a bit chuffed because I have finally come up with a new book idea. I’m still working on the biography of my great, great uncle Sir...