Susan Jane McLeod was born on 1st May 1885 at Branxholme, the fourth child and second daughter of Norman and Jane McLeod (nee McLachlan). Norman was 37 and Jane was 30. Seven more children were born after Susan – two who died in infancy.
The family lived at “Morven Park” Condah. Norman had purchased the property on 23rd February 1880 for two hundred and fifty seven pounds. The farm was named after Morven a district in the Highlands on the west coast of Scotland where Susan’s grandfather Hugh McLachlan was born. Morven was ravaged by the Highland Clearances.
Condah, a rural settlement south of Branxholme in the Parish of Green Hills is situated on the main road north from Portland to Hamilton in south-west Victoria. The name Condah (aboriginal word for swamp), does not appear to have been used until after 1850, prior to that it was known as Green Hills.
When Susan was growing up Condah had three churches, a hotel, a state school, butter factory, bank, Mechanics Hall and railway station.
Susan (or Susie as she was called) would have attended Condah State School.
As the McLeods were such a large family, Susan would have helped her mother with many of the domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and assisting with the younger children. The kitchen had a wood stove and house was lit with kerosene lamps. Life would have been very hard. Her brothers were often away for months at a time shearing.
On leaving school Susan went to work as a domestic servant at “Arrandoovong Station” in Branxholme. The squatting run Arrandoovong dates from the earliest times, being taken up by Patrick Lynch in 1844. Angus Cameron and his wife purchased the property in 1853 and built the very large two storey bluestone homestead designed on the lines of Mrs. Angus Cameron’s family home on the Isle of Arran off the coast of Scotland. Susan’s cousins Mary Ann (Tot) and Miriam or Minnie McCallum also worked there. They lived in the servants quarters, worked six days a week and walked home on sundays. There is a photo taken of Susan at Arrandoovong in 1910.
|Susie McLeod in between first cousins Tot (left) and Minnie (right) McCallum.|
We are not sure how Susan met her future husband Howard Routledge. Howard and his brother in law David Evans ran the General Store at Branxholme for about nine years from 1913. Branxholme was a sizeable town and the railway passed through there. The town also had many social pastimes – a Tennis Club, Brass Band, Floral Society, Horse Racing Club with Track, Rifle Club, Cricket Club and Football Club. It also seems unlikely that Susan would have had time to join these clubs. Another theory is that Howard may have delivered supplies to Arrandovoong and Susan met him there and a courtship evolved.
In December 1915 Howard aged 30 joined the AIF Battalion as a mustered gunner. The following year he embarked on the “Wiltshire” for active service abroad. Howard and Susan were engaged but he was reluctant to marry before leaving, fearful that if he did not return he would leave behind a widow and child. During the war Susie continued her work as a domestic servant at Arrandoovong, wrote letters to Howard, her brother Norman (Scotty) and her four first cousins who had also enlisted (Donny McLeod, Dugald and Duncan McCallum and Hugh McLachlan). On 5th November 1917 Howard was badly wounded in action with a gunshot to his head. He was transferred to England seriously ill and admitted to hospital. This would have been terrible news to receive at Condah. Susan’s brother Norman “Scotty” was also killed in 1918 on the Western Front France.
In January 1919 Susan received a letter from Howard saying “Have got good news well I hope you will think it is so” that he was returning to Australia on board the hospital ship Orsova. He arrived home in February 1919, and he and Susan were married at Morven Park on 21st July 1920.
In 1921 Howard and Susan moved to Tocumwal, New South Wales to run a General Store. Their first child George Fawcett Routledge was born there.
They all moved to Port Fairy to run the General Store in 1922 and two more children were born – Emily Jean 1923 and Peter 1924. Howard purchased 70 Bank Street Port Fairy in 1923 and Susan lived there until her death in 1957. Howard died on 3rd July 1947 of a coronary occlusion.
Susan was known as The Angel of Bank Street for her kindness and help to others in the community. My father Peter idolised his mother and until his death kept a photo of her in his wallet. Peter told me that as a small boy they drove to Melbourne to visit relatives and he was in a bad mood. His mother Susan tried to show him an important building as they went past and he refused to look. For the rest of his life he could not look at that building without regret. Also in his younger days when on leave from the Airforce, Peter returned to Port Fairy to visit his mother. He got waylaid by friends at the local pub and then staggered back home. His mother was furious and very upset and he never drank again in her presence. Susan was also a great cook and always had homemade cakes and pies waiting for the children when they walked home from school at lunchtime.
Susan had been in ill health for some time and in June 1957 was staying with her daughter Emily and family at “Glen Lea” Yambuk so that Emily could look after her. She slept in the same room as her young grandson John. John was very fond of his grandmother and every morning when he woke up they would play games together. On 7th June John came into the kitchen telling his mother “Nana Rout” won’t play with me. Susan had passed away peacefully in her sleep.
Susan was buried in Port Fairy Cemetery next to her beloved husband Howard.
Emily told her daughter Maryanne that Howard and Susie insisted that Emily be educated to the same level as Peter and George even though in a rural area like Port Fairy most women were expected to marry rather than pursue careers.
Susan was a devoted daughter, a much loved sister and cousin, a tireless community worker and waited patiently through the war years for Howard to return, not knowing how his injuries would affect him.
We – myself, Michael, Jane, John, Maryanne and Paul are very proud to be her grandchildren.
Elizabeth Hedger, April 2019