Farrell Ballarat Family

d. Victoria, Australia


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'Warrenheip' is an Aboriginal name meaning 'Emu's feathers', used as the name for the squatting run first taken up by Peter Inglis in 1843. In 1846, the young Archibald Fisken took over management of this property, as well as the Lal Lal run. (Griffiths, Three Times Blest, p. 10)

After the development of the Ballarat goldfield, a saw mill was established in 1854 on the northern side of Mount Warrenheip. (Griffiths, 1988, p. 91). Erica Nathan writes that in the 1850s it was the springs at the base of Mount Warrenheip that attracted three sawmills, a soft drink factory and two breweries. ( Lost Waters, 2007, MUP, p. 110, 114-122)

The Warrenheip Sawmills of Groves, McGhie and Co. featured in an article in the Miner and Weekly Star on 20 February 1857 , reporting that 250,000 feet per week of timber was being sent to the Ballarat mines. An extract from the Argus of 24 February 1857 recorded:

From a careful computation there are not less than seven to eight hundred men engaged in the production of timber, supporting by their labour at least double that number of persons, the large proportion being married men, comfortably hutted on and around the various localities in the forests from which the timber is obtained.

At the rate the forest surrounding the mount was being cleared, land in the area would soon be ready for selectors to take up in the 1860s.

People began to take up small blocks of land in the area from 1856, as the government, faced with demands from miners to 'unlock the lands', began to bring forward parcels of land around the goldfields for auction. (Bate, Lucky City, 1978, p. 119).

In 1855 a Mr Gilchrist opened a brewery on the western side of the mount, using the pure mineral springs. This was the forerunner of Magill and Coughlan, which by the end of the century was the largest brewer outside Melboune, with an annual capacity of 20,000 hogsheads. (Griffiths, 1988, p. 92)

Work on the Geelong-Ballarat railway commenced in 1858, with work on the Warrenheip-Ballarat section getting underway in January 1859. (King & Dooley, The Golden Steam at Ballarat, 1973, p. 1) When the Geelong-Ballarat railway line opened in March 1862, a railway station was built at Warrenheip, and a survey of the township was conducted.

Many Irish Catholics, refugees from the Potato Famine and land clearances, settled in the Warrenheip area, including Butlers, Lambs and Jenners. The research of Robyn McCormick and Darryl Scarff has uncovered a 'truckload' of families from a small area around Johnswell, Kilkenny, settling in the Warrenheip area. A Catholic School was established in 1858 by Father Richard Fennelly. In April 1860 the school applied for government aid for its teacher Miss Ellen Harrington. (Ellsworth, Pioneer Catholic Victoria, 1973, p. 239). The school closed in 1877, in favour of the nearby Catholic school at Dunnstown.

At the influx of the famine immigrants, the Irish were forced to live in tents and shanties. Many gold towns had their own 'Irish Town' or 'Shanty Town' where they clung together with their own kind. Their Irish accent and backward dress resulted in ridicule and their poverty and illiteracy resulted in scorn. In early drawings they were portrayed as ape-like leprechauns with shoes too big, hats too small, and clothes that had been out of style for decades. Their Catholic beliefs were also ridiculed by the large majority of Australian Protestants who, not-so-long before, were immigrants themselves.

Instead of apologizing for themselves, they united and took offense, usually resulting in violence. Solidarity was their strength and they helped each other survive; but it was their faith and dogged determination to their survival.

I There was never a Catholic church at Warrenheip. However at nearby Dunnstown there was a Catholic school from 1862 and the large church of St. Brendan's, built in 1905.

Brind's Distillery was established at Warrenheip in 1864 by a Mr Dunn, who gave his name to Dunnstown. (Griffiths, 1988, p. 94-5). J.J. Goller was also associated with it. By 1875 the Warrenheip Distillery, managed by Henry Brind, won a silver medal for its Geneva and Whiskey at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition. In 1887 William Kenna established his Warrenheip Brewery. The remains of the brick buildings can still be seen on the edge of the township.( Griffiths, 1988, p. 94)

There were many marriages of Irish Catholic immigrants and their children. Most marriages occurred at St. Alipius in Ballarat East, rather than St. Peter and Paul's at Buninyong, which had been built as a school-cum-church in 1858.