When I was about 15 I overheard my mother telling a family friend that she had an aunt called Mary Ann. As she had always liked the name she decided on it for her daughter1. However, my mother decided to add a ‘e’ to the Ann. The Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, had an ‘e’ and my mother reckoned if it was good enough for Anne it was good enough for her Australian daughter.
I never thought too much about who my mother’s aunt was until recent times. I had assumed it was an aunt on my mother’s father’s side of the family (the Routledges) but on investigation there were no aunts named Mary Ann on that side. It was only when I researched my maternal grandmother’s Scottish highlander roots that I discovered it was a popular name amongst the McLeods who came to Australia in the mid nineteenth century. In fact, one of the four children who travelled from Scotland to Australia with their parents, Norman and Susan in 1854 was an infant called Mary Ann. Unfortunately, she died in a diphtheria epidemic in 1864 along with her brother, Donald and a sister, Catherine. Another sister, Ann, survived the diphtheria epidemic and she went on to have 15 children with her husband Dugald McCallum. The 10th born child was Mary Ann. It was from this woman that my mother got the name Mary Ann.
Mary Ann McCallum was my grandmother’s first cousin. They grew up near each other and went to work as domestic servants on Arrandoovong station in the years before world war 1. After my grandmother married in 1920 and moved to Port Fairy to raise her children she stayed in touch with Mary Ann enough for my mother to have known her quite well. I am assuming that my mother must have liked Mary Ann, or Tot as she was called, as it seems improbable she would name her daughter after a person she disliked. I do not recall ever meeting her though it is possible she was present at “Morven Park” Condah, the home of my great aunts Annie and Jean, when I visited with my parents as a young child.
Recently, (February 2019) I found the following letter written by Tot’s sister Miriam (known as Minnie) to my mother after the birth of my brother, Paul, in 1961. Minnie, her husband, Percy, and Tot are holidaying together near Portland. It is also significant that my mother chose to keep this letter. It indicates a fondness for Minnie and Tot.
Just a line to say how pleased we are to hear you have another son and hope you are both getting on well. I was going to ring you up and forgot the telephone number. Jean told me to ring. I was sorry to hear you had such a bad time and hope by this you are good. We are wondering what name you have chosen. Won’t the children be pleased to have a baby in the house. We haven’t been to see Lex yet but will one of these days. Tot is enjoying herself just having a lazy time in a “shack” out on the Dutton Way. Percy gets up and brings us our breakfast and cleans up. Tot was in for a dip yesterday but the weather has been too cold. Tot sends her love
Love from Minnie
Tot was born in 1894 and died in November 1974. She was nine years younger than my grandmother, Susan McLeod but much closer in age to my grandmother’s sisters, Jean (b1893) and Lexie (b1895) (both mentioned in the letter above). The McCallums lived in Wallacedale and the McLeods in Condah but the distance between these two hamlets was not far, so as children they would have spent time together. Given the communication between the McCallum sisters and my mother in the 1960s the bonds between the cousins were obviously strong. The extensive network of cousins would have also extended to the children of Ann McCallum’s (nee McLeod) elder brother, Ruairidh. His first born was also a Mary Ann but she died at the age 16 in December 1900 from rheumatic fever. Six weeks later, Tot’s eldest brother and sibling, Norman, also died of rheumatic fever (January 1901).
|Annie McLeod (L) with her first cousin, Mary Ann (Tot) McCallum before world war 1.
Annie (b 1883 d. 1957) is the older sister of my grandmother, Susie.
Wallacedale was initially known as the Condah Swamp village. In 1898, at a meeting held in the recently built hall, and attended by 600 people, it was decided to rename the settlement Wallacedale. This was in honour of the Reverend N.C Wallace, “ … Presbyterian minister of Branxholme, on account of the deep interest taken by him in the settlement and surrounding neighbourhood”2
Branxholme and Wallacedale were “severely affected” in the Ash Wednesday bushfires of February 16th 19833. As a result of these fires a number of the buildings, including the McCallum family home that Tot lived in from about 1930 to her death in 1974, were destroyed4.
However, when Tot was a child there were a number of businesses and facilities in Wallacedale5
There were also the services of a blacksmith and a boot repairer. The telephone came in 1916. There was a football oval and a tennis club6. An athletic club was formed in 1909 and it held its first event in John McIntyre’s paddock7. Each New Year’s Day there was a picnic. This involved a number of sports events during the day and a ball at night.
One event the McCallums would most likely have talked about was the tragic death of Mrs Agnes Lyons who was burnt to death in a house fire in October 1899. The following report appeared in the Portland Guardian on October 9th 18998
A number of churches existed in Wallacedale9
Tot would have received a basic education most likely in one of the schools built in the 1890s. The very first school was opened in 1894 (State school #3217). The school shifted site in 1897 and had 92 pupils in that year.11 An Education Department Inspector visited the school in 1899. The head teacher was Mr Phillips and his assistant, Miss Nicholls. Later that year Mr Tredinnick became the head teacher. He came from the Condah school. The school had a sewing mistress, Miss P. Rosevaar. A second school initially called Byambynee but later known as Wallacedale North was opened in 1901 (#3332). It had 150 pupils and its headmaster was Archibald McDonald. Miss Carrie Cross aged 13 was the sewing mistress12. A pupil register still exists for Wallacedale North but it has no McCallums attending13. This suggests they must have attended Wallacedale (State school #3217).
One student from the Wallacedale school wrote a letter to “Cinderella” at the Melbourne Leader newspaper in July 1907. It’s likely this student would have been at school with Tot. The Cinderella segment consisted of school children writing letters saying what books they had read and providing a small amount of information about their life. She mentions that the school will be getting a library soon and already has 66 books14.
Like most people in those times, Tot would have started work around 13 years of age, perhaps even younger as she came from a large family whose financial circumstances would have been limited. Tot was a pantry maid at Arrandoovong station at Branxholme. Her sister Minnie was the cook. A new kitchen wing was added to the property in 190015 and it is here that Minnie and Tot would have spent their time. Their wages were about two shillings and six pence a week16. They worked six days a week and walked home on a Sunday to visit their family. Their wages were handed to their mother17. Tot’s work would have involved supporting the operation of the kitchen through fetching, carrying, scrubbing, washing and scouring pots and pans. The picture below is what the station homstead looked like around the time Tot worked there.
The picture below taken at Arrandoovong station shows Tot McCallum (L), my grandmother, Susie McLeod (C) and Tot’s sister, Minnie (R).
Electoral rolls show Tot was at the station from 1919 – 1924. The 1931 electoral roll has her residing at Wallacedale18. Her mother died in 1930 so she returned to the family home to care for her father19. She remained there until her death in 1974. Tot never married.
By today’s standards Tot’s life would seem austere. She lived in a weatherboard four roomed cottage without a phone until very late in her life. She did not drive and relied on others to take her where she couldn’t walk. The home had no hot water service and she had only a basic wood stove for cooking. She made a meagre income from the small amount of land she had. She milked a few cows and grew her own vegies. Later in life her nephew helped her apply for the pension. Her life was about family and she gave generously of her time and spirit to her large extended family consisting of her sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews and cousins.
Her great niece, Heather Funk remembers her as a “… very gentle person, who seemed to find the best in people, and was very kind. She had the McCallum wicked sense of humour that would pop out when you were least expecting it”20
|Tot on her verandah early 1970s|
Above: Tot with family members in the garden 1940 – 1950s
Maryanne Martin, March 2019, standing where Tot’s property used to be on McCallums Road, Wallacedale.
Tot died suddenly at home. She left all she had to her family and 25 pounds to the Free Presbyterian Church. The will was written in 1958.
Author Maryanne Martin March/April 2019
1 What my mother didn’t realise until after she had registered my name was that Mary Ann was also the name of my paternal grandmother, Mary Ann Martin (nee Thulborn)
2 Portland Guardian February 15 1899 accessed https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article March 31 2019
3 Forest Fire Management Victoria, “Ash Wednesday: One of Australia’s Most Well Known Bushfire Events”
4 Heather Funk great niece of Mary Ann McCallum email correspondence with Maryanne Martin February 27th 2019
5 Wheeler, H.B, A Short History of Wallacedale 1955
6 Wheeler op cit
7 Hamilton Spectator March 24th 1909 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article accessed March 27 2019
8 Portland Guardian October 9th 1899 1899 accessed https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article March 27 2019
9 Wheeler op cit
10 Wheeler op cit
11 Wheeler op cit
12 Wheeler op cit
13 Hamilton History Centre email correspondence from Ian Black to Maryanne Martin March 26 2019
14 Leader, August 17 1907 accessed https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article March 31 2019
15 Victorian Heritage Database report, Arrandoovong Homestead Complex, p2
16 This is about $93.54: Hutchinson & Ploeckl, “Five Ways to Compute the Relative Value of Australian Amounts, 1828 to the Present”: www.measuringworth.com/australiacompare accessed March 31 2019
17 Heather Funk great niece of Tot – email correspondence with Maryanne Martin February 27th 2019
18 Australian Electoral Rolls for 1919,1921,1924,1931 accessed through Ancestry.com.au April 1 2019
19 Heather Funk email correspondence with Maryanne Martin February 24th 2019
20 Heather Funk email correspondence with Maryanne Martin February 24th 2019
You’ve really done some work on this. Rhoda will have additional personal information if you are interested – Geoff
that would be great Geoff
I came across your article by chance, and found it very interesting. I was actually trying to find information on Wallacedale State School. I believe my Great Uncle Rov McMillan taught there, he was married to Olive May “Ollie” McCallum. I know that he was living in Wallacedale in 1931 along with his widowed mother, I think my father was also living with them, he would have been about 11. Rov and Ollie married in 1936. I’m trying together any information about their time there or any old photos.
Thanks for sharing this story – really well told. I’m connected to the family through Lucy Trahar (nee McCallum).
Thanks for your comment Lucy.
This story was researched by cousin Maryanne Martin for our 2019 get together at the Condah pub. Not much was known about Tot’s life at that time.
Since then the pandemic and its ongoing effects have disrupted our gatherings.