"This is the hotel where your Great Grandfather, Martin Gleeson, hid Peter Lalor after the Eureka Stockade whilst the police were looking for him", said my father as he showed me the photo. I looked with interest, aware from a previous conversation, that Peter Lalor was the leader of the miners who rebelled against harsh treatment by the police on the Ballarat Goldfields, about one hundred years ago. They were attacked by Government Troops at dawn on Sunday 3rd December 1854, and a lot of the miners were killed.
I was about 8 years old at the time and dad was about to post the story and the photo off to people who had advertised for information about Ballarat around the time the Eureka event took place. They were about to make the film "Eureka" which starred Chips Rafferty as Peter Lalor. I held a memory of the hotel in the photo having a large sign advertising "Gleeson's ECLINTON HOTEL."
Some fifty five years have passed since dad showed me that photo, and I have done much research on the facts related to Martin Gleeson. In reality, both dad and I were found to be only partially correct in our statements and memories. The name of the hotel was in fact the "EGLINTON", not ECLINTON. Great Grandfather Martin Gleeson was the licensee, but his period was from 1863 to 1868, which is 9 years or more after the Eureka attack.
However, he probably did contribute to hiding miners after the Eureka event, but in Geelong rather than Ballarat. It is also probable that at least one of his seven brothers, aged between 20 and 36 at the time, was actively present at Eureka. The Michael Gleeson who was one of the 120 miners arrested on the day was probably Martin's brother.
An Obituary of Great Grandfather Martin Gleeson, in the Ararat Chronicle, after his death at age 77, on 6th March 1903, and which lacked some factual accuracy, stated:
"Some time after his arrival at the Pivot the deceased went into business as a Hotelkeeper in Geelong, which was in those days a flourishing port, and had aspirations of becoming the capital of the colony.
"After spending some 10 or 12 years here the late Mr Gleeson removed to Ballarat just before the interesting period of our history marked by the incidents which culminated in the Ballarat riots. Becoming proprietor of the Eagleton Hotel there at the time of the famous riot the deceased was able to shelter some of the contestants in that memorable struggle from the vengeance of the law, and public opinion being with the miners in their grievances the undertaking, though attended with some risk, was not a difficult one.
"Leaving Ballarat a little over 30 years ago, Mr Gleeson arrived in this locality at the time of the first land settlement. With an energy characteristic of many Australian pioneers Mr Gleeson set to work to make a home for himself in the Kiora district, where he secured a good holding. He succeeded in establishing a comfortable homestead and acquiring considerable property, and leaves his family in good circumstances.
"Six brothers of the deceased - Edward, Patrick, Michael, Joseph, Thomas and James - also emigrated to Australia, and the latter is now the only surviving brother. The deceased was highly respected, and was noted for his jovial disposition and the fund of anecdotes he possessed, which made a chat with the old pioneer very interesting, for he could recount many amusing incidents of his early experiences in Victoria." (Note: The period in Ballarat is incorrect; the name of the Ballarat Hotel is incorrect; the number of brothers is shown as 6 instead of 7; brother John, the eldest, was omitted.)
Martin Gleeson's tombstone carries the words "A native of Gowran Kilkenny". He was baptised there at the Roman Catholic Church on 28th September 1825, with Thos. Butler and Judy Dunphy as sponsors. This was around the time of the Tithes War which started in County Kilkenny, and added to the political tension as Catholic farmers were objecting to paying tithes to the Established Church of Ireland. It coincided with a period of recession when both the price of corn and livestock slumped simultaneously. The mid 1840s then saw the Irish Potato famine which caused the death of a million people in Ireland and the emigration of another one and a half million. It appears that the Gleeson family made the decision to joined the emigrants and over a few years Martin and seven brothers and their parents all arrived in Australia. The names of his brothers were John, Patrick, Edward, Michael who were older than Martin, and Joseph, Thomas and James who were younger.
Martin travelled to Australia via the ship "Constance", from Plymouth, England, and disembarked at Melbourne on 28th November 1850. He was an assisted immigrant recorded as an intermediate passenger, with his occupation shown as Labourer; religion as RC; year of birth as c1825 and place as Kilkenny, Ireland.
The "Constance" was a barque of 578 tons, measuring 120.5' x 26.8' x 19.8', built at Ayre's Quay, Co. Durham in 1848 by William Henry Parson. It sailed under the command of Capt. John Bulwer Godfrey.
On 15 February 1855, at St Mary's Catholic Church, Geelong, Martin, then aged 30, married Margaret Butler, originally from Coan, Kilkenny, but then of "The Springs","(now known as Waubra) Victoria, although the marriage certificate show "The Heads". Martin's occupation is shown as "Shopkeeper". The celebrant was Fr John A Parker and witnesses were Martin Loughlin and Bridget McNally.
This Martin Loughlin was also a native of Kilkenny and was destined to become one of the richest men in the colony of Victoria through his membership of a small syndicate whose "Band of Hope" mine yielded a world famous treasure of millions of pounds worth of gold. There is no evidence that Martin Gleeson was a member of the syndicate, although there is a story that he once handed Martin Loughlin 2 handsfull of sovereigns to overcome a cash shortage to complete a project, so perhaps he was repaid generously. Martin Loughlin died unmarried. He gave generously to charities. One of his legacies was for the erection of a church in Kilkenny city, large enough to hold 1,000 people. It is named St John the Evangelist" and cost 40, 000 pounds to erect late in the 19th century.
The parents of the bride and groom were respectively shown as Maurice Butler, farmer, and Anne O'Brien, and Edward Gleeson, shopkeeper, and Mary Lyons.
The bride's father was a descendant of the Butlers who originated from the appointment by King Henry 11 of England of Theobald de Valognes, a Norman Knight, as his chief Butler for Ireland in 1185. The office became the surname in the same manner as did that of Steward, Marshall or Chamberlain. Their original seat or home was at Gowran, Kilkenny, but early in the 13th century they purchased Kilkenny Castle from the descendants of the Norman Knight, Strongbow, and moved into Kilkenny city where it is located.
Later in the 13th century the Butlers, under the leadership of the Earl of Ormond, were one of the greater dynasties of the Anglo-Norman families in Ireland and owned large areas of land in Tipperary and Kilkenny. This was dissipated over the following centuries, especially for those Butlers who maintained their allegiance to Roman Catholicism, by events such as the Protestant Planation policy of Oliver Cromwell, the victory of William of Orange over James11 at the battle of the Boyne, and the Act of Union of 1800.
In 1825, Margaret Butler's father, Maurice Butler, was a tenant farmer of 7 acres at Lanigan's quarter in Castlecomer. We do not have details of his death but believe it to be after 1828 and before 1848.
The bride's mother, Anne Butler, (nee O'Brien) emigrated to Australia, via Sydney in 1849 with 3 sons Edmund, Thomas and Richard and daughter Margaret. They initially lived near Bathurst where Thomas married and died, but son Richard found land at The Springs, now Waubra, near Ballarat in Victoria. He brought his mother, Edmund and Margaret to there. Mother, Anne, died on 25th April 1885 at age 105 and is buried in the Waubra cemetery.
Martin Gleeson's parents also came to Australia, probably about 1852, and initially lived at Ashby, before settling at Anakie. near Geelong, where 2 of their sons, Edward and Michael, obtained land. Each of them lived to age 92, dying in 1877 and 1881 respectively. They are buried in the Eastern Cemetery, Geelong, Old Catholic Area, Section 12, Row 3.
Martin and Margaret Gleeson had eleven children, four of whom died as infants, one remained a spinster and the other six married and raised families. Their descendants would now exceed four hundred in number. Margaret lived to age 98 and died at Ararat in 1926. She is buried with Martin in the Ararat Cemetery.
On the Colony of Victoria 1856 Electoral Roll, the very first one for the State of Victoria's Legislative Assembly, Martin Gleeson is shown as "Hotelkeeper, Packington Street, Ashby Division, Leasehold." He also appears in the Geelong, Ballarat and Creswick Commercial Directory for 1856, under Geelong as "Harp Hotel, Packington Street, Ashby, - Martin Gleeson."
He took over as Licensee of the "Harp" from Edward Gleeson, probably his brother, but possibly his father, and held the license from 1856 to 1862. The Harp Inn building was erected in 1848 by Michael Loughnan, who was licensee from 1849 to 1852, followed by his brother James in 1853, then Edward Gleeson in 1854 and 1855.
Michael Loughnan also paid rates on the store of 4 rooms, next door to the Harp Inn. This makes me wonder whether this was where Martin and his father Edward were Shopkeepers in 1855. The fact that Martin Gleeson paid rates on both the Harp Inn and the store in 1856-57 adds weight to that possibility.
The building which was the Harp Inn continues to exist today as 22 Packington Street and in a survey conducted in 1986 was recommended as of State significance for registration with the National Trust. It is now an Historic building.
Whilst the family story that Martin Gleeson hid miners after the Eureka Stockage rebellion, including Peter Lalor cannot be substantiated, it can, however, be noted that Peter Lalor married at the same Church as Martin, less than 4 months later. Any hiding of miners would have been at Ashby (Geelong), which was in those days on the main route from Melbourne to Geelong. Noted Historian from Australian National University, Professor John Neylon Molony, who wrote the book "Eureka" made the point, in discussion with me on this matter, in 1997, that the Irish in those days "really knew one another".
It is likely that Martin stayed in Geelong until 1862 or 1863, when he moved to the "Eglinton Hotel", in Ballarat. The Cole Collection, Ballarat, MS 7592, at the La Trobe Library indicates that the "Eglinton" was located on the corner of Main and Humffray Streets, Ballarat, viz. 20 Main Street. The "New Eglinton was located on Main Road at what is now No.82. The Geelong Advertiser dated 25 January 1864 reported:
"Mr Martin Gleeson, late of Geelong, has just erected in Mair Street, Ballarat, a handsome and commodious hotel called "The Eglinton". It is two stories in height and the style adopted is in keeping with the Italian order. The accommodation comprises a basement floor with a kitchen, cellar etc, a spacious bar and three sitting rooms on the ground floor, and upstairs there are seven bedrooms and a large room 30 x 18. The total cost was about 2,000 ponds. The architect is Mr Jones and the contractors Messrs Nicholls and Ellis and Mr Lovell."
In reality it was and the building remains today as 34 Main Road, Ballarat, as shown in the 1999 photo above. It was within 100 yards of Bakery Hill where the Miners of Eureka first hoisted the Southern Cross Flag, and swore their oath of allegiance.
Further evidence of Martin's presence in Ballarat in 1863 is that his eldest son, Richard, is on the 1863 roll for the nearby St Alipius School at Ballarat East. This is listed in the book "St Alipius, Ballarat's First Church - The Early History" by Dorothy Wickham.
The Grants Land Act of 1865 caused the sale by Government auction of much of the sheep walks occupied by squatters in Western Victoria. In such an auction at Ararat, Martin Gleeson acquired his first land at Kiora, in the agricultural area of "Lispower", County of Rippon, in 1868. Over a period of thirty five years, he purchased some twelve blocks totalling around 7,000 acres, all within the area termed "Australia Felix" by pioneer Explorer and Surveyor General for the Colony of NSW, Major Thomas Mitchell. A record of his epic journey reports that Major Mitchell camped, on 20th and 21st September 1836, at a location in the vicinity of Mt William, south of Ararat, and within five miles of where Martin acquired his first land only 32 years later.
Some additional understanding of Martin Gleeson's personality is gleaned from words quoted in another printed obituary:-
" He did not indulge in political matters, local or parliamentary, but his opinion was often sought and acted upon by his friends and acquaintances in many important matters. Being a devout worshipper of his faith his church never lacked his assistance in time of need. He was a good neighbour and hospitable to all callers and friends."
"The remains of the deceased gentleman were interred in the local cemetery (Ararat) on Sunday last, a large number of residents from all parts of the district assembling to pay the last token of respect to a worthy resident, the cortege including, besides horsemen, over 50 vehicles."
"The deceased was a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, and he possessed in a very marked degree the cordiality and deep sense of humour so characteristic of many sons of the Emerald Isle."
"The late gentleman was one of the most successful selectors of the aforementioned period, and understanding his business, he was not slow in acquiring any contiguous properties put under offer to him by the more restless settlers, who could always see green fields far away, and had perforce to make sacrifices towards their Eldorado, which in many cases was never reached, while their friend and genial neighbour, the late Mr Gleeson built up by purchase quite a large estate. His latest acquisition was the Sidlaw property of nearly 3,000 acres some years ago."
"The deceased leaves a widow and three sons -Messrs Richard, Martin and James Gleeson, - all well known residents of the district, and four daughters, two of whom (Mrs O'Beirne of Linton and Mrs Reid of Melbourne) are married. Much sympathy is expressed for the bereaved relatives of the deceased by all classes in the district."
An old Willaura identity, Mr George Walker, who said he remembered, as a boy, seeing Martin Gleeson, recalls that Martin was known as "Bossy" Gleeson and that he drank his share.(and George would know what that meant because, as a boy, I recall that he did likewise.)
In his will, drafted by Solicitors, Herwood & Pincott, Geelong, on 1st October 1902, Martin left the property "Clifton" in the care of his widow Margaret and youngest son, James; the property "Sidlaw for the benefit of eldest son Richard; and the property known as "Petries" to his son Martin Edward.
In addition, arrangements existed for daughters to receive money from the estate. Mary was to receive from the Clifton estate, 20 pounds per year whilst single and residing at Clifton, or 50 pounds if residing away. Margaret, a sum of 300 pounds free of duty; Annie and Kate, 200 pounds each.
The decision to leave poverty ridden Ireland in 1850, and risk emigration to a relatively unknown land that was half way around the globe, was a turning point in the life of this Gleeson from Gowran, and that decision impacted significantly on himself and his descendants.
We who are those descendants of Martin Gleeson and Margaret Butler are beneficiaries of their adventure and sacrifice. Motivated by their story and the theme, words and music of the beautiful song of Maria Forde, "I Follow the Call", I am in the process of researching and recording Gleeson Family History. I invite all the descendants of Martin Gleeson and Margaret Butler, and interested readers of these lines to participate and add to the story of the "Gleesons from Gowran".
I follow the call of the people before me
I follow the call of my own Celtic blood
I follow the call across the waves and the oceans
I follow the call to the land that I love
Some of you came as convicts and servants
Forced by the famine or transportation
and no one could feel the pain of your heartache
When you found yourself exiled from family and friends
Crossing the ocean in search of a future
to england, america, australia you came
and working the land, down the mines on the railways
sharing your music, your stories, your pain
Down through the ages a new generation
Now we have a future of promise and pride
Cos we are a product of your toil and your struggle
and our own celtic spirit burns proudly inside"
Printed with permission.
This song is recorded on compact disc available from:
Maria Forde, P.O Box 468, Rosanna, Victoria, Australia, 3084.
Tel (03) 9458 1590
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