Alice Martha Free (1866-1949) and
Edward Angus McCallum (1863-1943)

(last updated 1 March 2020)

1. Life and Times

corack north schoolWilliam and Eliza Free's second eldest daughter, Alice Martha Free, (1866-1949) was born at Raglan in Victoria while William was working as a shepherd at Mount Cole. In 1878 she moved with her parents and siblings to Corack East where she was one of the inaugural students at the area's first state school located at Corack North (pictured on the left).

In 1886 Alice married Edward Angus McCallum (1863-1943) at the nearby township of Donald. Edward was born at Meredith (near Steiglitz) in Victoria. The 'Margot Nelson/Riordan Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us his parents were two Scots: John McCallum (1827-1910), born at Aberfoyle in Perthshire, and Mary (Mollie) McKay (1830-1904), who came from Durness in the West Highlands County of Sutherland. John had sailed from Liverpool on the HORNET and arrived at Geelong in October 1854. Mary, together with her parents and seven siblings, sailed to Sydney in 1856 on the WINIFRED. The Corack Cemetery Headstone and Burial Index maintained by Leanne Grogan, shows that John and Mary died in 1910 and 1904 respectively and are both buried at Corack.

corack wheat fieldIn an article published in the Weekly Times on 26 December 1931, Edward told his interviewer, 'Tillage', that his father had worked as an overseer at Ercildoune station, at Learmonth near Ballarat, before selecting 328 acres of land at Corack East in around 1876 (John named his property 'Balnachiel'). The country was then covered primarily with buloke (a species of iron-wood) within which were clumps of swamp box and pine. Clearing was done by hand or using 'horse grubbers' which, with three men, could remove up to 60 trees in an afternoon. All timber not used for buildings or fencing was burnt. Edward added that:

. . . we had a very hard time in the early days. When we arrived the nearest railway was at Dunolly. After that it came to St. Arnaud, and I carted wheat to that centre, a distance of 43 miles, for three years. At times there were 60 teamsters camped on Burke's reserve at St. Arnaud, and it was by no means unusual to see these men settle a dispute about the merits of their horses with hard punches. In 1882 a flour mill was established at Cope Cope, 29 miles from here, and several of us took wheat there for a couple of years, [before] the mill was destroyed by fire. Then the line came to Donald, 20 miles away, and that gave great relief. It was extended to Birchip in the early nineties, which brought us within eight miles of the railway, at Watchem . . . we thought we had it at our back door after what we had become accustomed to.

'Tillage' went on to report that, by 1931, the original property holding had been expanded to 1100 acres and was being managed by Edward and his two youngest sons, Donald and Eric McCallum. Three other boys, Norman, Robert, and Maurice [sic] McCallum, owned and ran two additional properties (totalling some 2000 acres) located to the west of Watchem. The Corack East farm was mostly comprised of a red sandy loam while the Watchem land consisted principally of stronger grey soil. As a rule the area under cultivation across the two properties totalled some 2000 acres where the principal crop sown was wheat (Edward and either Don or Eric are shown standing in their wheat field at Balnachiel in the photo above on the right). While no definite system of cropping rotation was practised, fallow, wheat, oats and two years' pasture was considered best for the maintenance of yields. Around 200 acres were devoted to oats, practically all of which was cut for hay, and a small area of Cape barley was grown for the families' pigs and fowls. Around 900 sheep were carried on the Corack East farm and 400 at Watchem. 'Tillage' ended his survey by adding that Edward also exhibited 'great pride in his small orchard. It contains plums, apricots, peaches and citrus fruits, all of which do well. He is particularly interested in two varieties of plums, Ballena and Santa Rosa, and results from these have been very encouraging'.

balnachiel sheep 2010

From the flickr photo collection, 'Fine looking Balnachiel sheep having a holiday at Corack' (8 April 2010).

The Australian electoral rolls show that Edward Angus and Alice Martha lived all of their married lives at 'Balnachiel'. Over this time Alice gave birth to eleven children while all the while helping her husband run the family farm and, as her obituary below records, contributing to the life of the local community. Two of their children - Alice Muriel and George Mitchell McCallum - died at Corack as infants. As detailed in Part 2, most of their remaining nine children also lived and worked in and around Corack. Between them they produced 23 grandchildren, to be enjoyed and boasted of by their proud grandparents, and at least 39 great grandchildren we are aware of. Edward Angus McCallum died at Birchip on 26 May 1943 and the following notice was placed in the Melbourne Argus: 'McCALLUM - On May 26, at Birchip, Edward Angus, beloved husband of Alice McCallum, of Corack East, and loving father of Johanna (Mrs Lee), Donald, Norman, Eileen (Mrs Green), Lilian (Mrs Cousins), Robert, Daisy (Mrs Madden), Morris and Eric, aged 80 years'.

After Edward's death, Alice continued to live at 'Balnachiel' at Corack East until she entered the Birchip Nursing Home where she died on 10 June 1949. The following death notice was published by the family in the Argus on 15 June: 'McCALLUM - on June 10, at Birchip B.N.H., dearly beloved wife of the late Edward Angus McCallum, of Corack, loving mother of Johanna (Mrs O. Lee), Donald Edward, Samuel Norman, Eileen Mary (Mrs J. Green), George Mitchell (deceased), Blanche (deceased), Lilian Sarah (Mrs Cousens), Robert Grenville, Daisy Constance (Mrs S. Madder), Morris Wilfred, Eric John - Reunited.' On 29 July the following obituary for Alice appeared in the Donald Times:

Born at Mount Cole near Beaufort 83 years ago, the late Mrs McCallum (relict of the late Mr E. A. McCallum) was, prior to her marriage, Miss Alice Free, daughter of Mr and Mrs John Free [sic]. Her early school days were spent at Mount Cole and Corack North, she having come north at the age of twelve with her parents, who selected an area of land now held by Mr E. L. Reilly. She was married at Donald about 43 years ago, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. Donald Cameron. Mr and Mrs McCallum went to live at 'Balnekiel', Corack East, and continued to live on the property through their long married life. Mr McCallum pre-deceased his wife by seven years, but they had wrested a living from the soil during all sorts of vicissitudes, had brought up a large family and had established themselves as among the district's most estimable citizens.

Mrs McCallum had always been of a quiet, gentle and loving disposition and had earned the respect and esteem of all those who knew her. She had always been interested in church work and was a foundation member of the Birchip Presbyterian Womens Missionary Union. She was also a valued member of the Guild and during World War I was vice-president of the Red Cross in her district. She was also a member of the CWA at Watchem and in her younger days found time to exhibit cookery with success at many shows. Her Christianity was demonstrated in many ways, and particularly in her practical charity to all in need. Her health had not been good for some time and she passed away in hospital in Birchip on June 10, leaving many beautiful memories to remain with her friends and family, the members of which are: Mrs Lee (Maryborough), Don (Corack East), Norman (Corack), Mrs J. H. Green (Lilydale), Mrs E. Cousins (Wychitella), Bob (Corack East), Mrs N. K. Madder (Corack East), Maurice (Watchem), and Eric (Corack East). One son (George) and one daughter (Alice) are deceased. Brothers are Will (Perth), Ben (Adelaide) and Ern (Cowangie). The funeral took place to the Corack cemetery, over 100 cars constituting one of the longest corteges ever seen in the district.

cream of corack

This photograph shows the female congregationists of the Corack Methodist Church in 1929. Alice Martha McCallum nee Free
is second from the right in the front row. On Alice's right is her sister-in-law Joanna Free nee Shepherd.
The photo also includes two of Johanna's sisters: Elizabeth Shepherd (second from the left in the rear row), and
Mary Jane Cook nee Shepherd (fourth from the left in the front row).

corack old timers

Taken on the same day, this photograph shows some of Corack's original settlers including Alice Martha McCallum
and the Shepherd sisters. We think that the man second from the left at the back may be Alice's older brother, Samuel Free.
It is likely that Edward Angus Mccallum is also present although, as yet, we have been unable to identify him.

Rootsweb site for the Free, Flavell, Finkell, Coxall, Chaffe and Shepherd families William Free in Australia
Arrival in Melbourne 1853-1855
William Free in Australia
Mount Hesse to the Wimmera 1856-1878
William Free in Australia
Life and death at Corack 1878-1900
First Families Index First Families Home Page