Phoebe Ann Free (1862-1927) and
John Thomas Gilchrist (1857-1934)


(last updated 21 February 2020)

Life and times

Born at Teesdale in 1862, Phoebe Ann Free (1862-1927) travelled with her parents and siblings to Raglan and then Corack East in central Victoria where, according to the East Charlton Tribune, she was granted a licence to a block of land in the area in April 1881. On 15 October that same year, she married John Thomas Gilchrist (1857-1934), the son of William Gilchrist (1823-1903), a farmer who hailed from Yorkshire in England, and Sarah Anne Garner (1829-90). According to the 'Owen Gilchrist' family tree on Ancestry, William and Sarah were married at Pontefract in West Yorkshire on 9 February 1857 and had 12 children, five of whom were born in England with the rest, including John Thomas, born at Maryborough in central Victoria. Sarah died at nearby Donald in 1890 and William at Katanning, in Western Australia's wheat belt region, in 1903. William is buried in the Katanning cemetery with his son, Francis William Gilchrist (1864-1930) who with his wife, Susan, and their family, moved from Victoria to the West in 1894. There, Frank 'put in five years on the goldfields after which he settled at Katanning' (Southern District Advocate, 10 February 1930). Frank's younger sister, Mary Anne ('Polly') Blair (1868-1952), and her husband, Robert, and their family were also living at Katanning at the time.

After their marriage at Donald in Victoria in 1881, John Thomas and Phoebe Ann lived initially at Corack East and later on a farm at Watchem (the 1903 and subsequent electoral rolls show them at Watchem). They had 13 children between 1881 and 1906: Ethel Edith Besler (1881-1946), Alice Martha Berry (1883-1947), William John Gilchrist (1885-1948), Francis James Gilchrist (1886-1928), Walter Herbert Gilchrist (1889-1915), Beatrice Eliza McQienn (1890-1953), Annie Victoria Finn (1892-1966), Charles Bertie Gilchrist (1893-1975), Blanche Catrina Gilchrist (1896-7), Leslie Gordon Gilchrist (1899-1952), Theresa Lilian Berry (1901-82), Stanley Robert Gilchrist (1903-80) and Donald Edward Gilchrist (1906-77). Most of these are pictured in the family photo shown below.

Phoebe Ann Gilchrist nee Free died at Watchem in 1927. Her husband John Thomas Gilchrist died there in 1934. They are buried in the Watchem cemetery together with their son William John Gilchrist. The following obituary for Phoebe was published in the Donald Times on Tuesday 23 August 1927:

The death occurred at Watchem on August 16 of one of the old pioneers of the district in the person of Mrs John Gilchrist. The deceased lady was 65 years of age at the time of her death which took place after a very brief illness. When a girl she came to the district from Eurambeen with her late parents and was held in respect by all. She leaves the following sons and daughters to whom sympathy of all is extended: Ethel (Mrs Besler), Alice (Mrs Berry), Beatrice (Mrs McQuienn), Annie (Mrs Finn), Teresa (Mrs M. Berry), William, Walter (deceased), Bertram, Leslie, Robert, Frank, Donald and Blanche (deceased). Her sisters are Mrs E. McCallum, of Corack, Mrs Donnan of Woomelang, and her brothers Samuel (Lalbert), George (Mornington), Benjamin (Cowangie) and Ernie (Cowangie). The funeral took place on August 17 when a representative gathering assembled at the Watchem cemetery to do honour to the memory of the deceased. The following were the coffin bearers: Messes R. Ackland, J. F. McErvale, T. Robbins, Alex Blair, Isaac Zimmer, and Don McCallum. The Rev Sage read the service of the Church of England.

phoebe ann free wedding family of phoebe ann free

John and Phoebe Gilchrist (nee Free) at the time of their wedding and with members of their family in around 1912.
Back row (from L/R): Frank, Les, Annie, Walter and William Gilchrist. Middle row: Beatrice, Phoebe Ann,
Donald, John Thomas, Theresa, Ethel and Robert Gilchrist. Front row: Blanche and
Lindsay McQuienn and Dorrie and Ernest Beseler.

Children and descendants (Part 2)

As mentioned above, John Thomas and Phoebe Ann Gilchrist had seven sons and six daughters between 1881 and 1906. One of their daughters, Blanche Catrina Gilchrist (1896-7) died at Watchem as an infant. Click here to see what we know of the lives, families and descendants of their other five daughters - Ethel, Alice, Theresa, Beatrice and Annie - who, between them, provided their beloved parents with 31 grandchildren and at least 38 great grandchildren we are aware of. Detailed below is what we know of their seven sons - William, Frank, Walter, Bert, Leslie, Robert and Donald - and their families and descendants. We will see that three of their boys enlisted in the First AIF and three, along with a number of their own sons, sons-in-law and/or nephews, in the Army or the RAAF during the Second World War. All of the Gilchrist boys lived and worked in the Donald/Watchem area and most, if not all, played for the Watchem football team. Five of the seven boys married and, between them, provided their parents with a further 15 grandchildren and at least 39 great grandchildren we are aware of.

1 & 2. William John Gilchrist (1885-1948). Born at Corack East in Victoria, William moved with his parents and siblings to Watchem where he worked on the family farm. His military record in the Australian Archives shows he enlisted in the First AIF at Ballarat on 1 November 1916. He described himself as a farmer who was 31 years old and single. William embarked from Port Melbourne on the HMAT A29 SUEVIC on 21 June 1917 and disembarked at Liverpool in England on 26 August the same year. While he had been allocated to the 4th Light Horse, he was to serve as a gunner in the Australian artillery. In England he was hospitalised at Fargo and later Weymouth with asthma and was eventually declared medically unfit and returned to Australia on 10 January 1918 where he was granted a fortnightly pension of 15 shillings per week. The Australian electoral rolls show that he lived the rest of his life at Watchem where he died on 18 September 1948 and was buried with his parents in the local cemetery. We don't think he was married. The executors of his will were Robert Augustine Belleville and James Augustine Colbert, both farmers of Watchem. William's younger brother, Walter Herbert Gilchrist (1889-1915) had earlier enlisted on 12 July 1916. While training with 'P' Company at the Flemington Race Course, he was admitted to Melbourne's Alfred Hospital suffering from meningitis and died there on 18 August 1916. At the request of his parents, Walter's body was sent to Watchem to be buried in the local cemetery. The impact on the local community of his death was described in the Birchip Advertiser and Watchem Sentinal on 25 August 1915 as follows:

Quite a gloom was cast about the town and district on Wednesday when the sad news came by telegram that Private Walter Herbert Gilchrist had passed away that morning at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, the cause of death being cerebro spinal meningitis. The first intimation of his illness was when his relatives received word on the Monday prior to his death from his eldest brother, William, who had proceded to Melbourne, but the medical men gave him little hope . . .The poor fellow had just been in the Showgrounds for about a month. Private Gilchrist had failed to pass the medical tests the first time he volunteered owing to a slight defect of the teeth . . . He was 26 years of age, born at Watchem, was educated at the State School, and resided here all his life. He was the third son of Mr and Mrs John Gilchrist, of Watchem and during tho last few years had been in the employ of [indecipherable] that gentleman never spoke of him but to praise. His sudden death has removed from our midst one of our finest young men, being of an unassuming manner, always willing to do his part in sport where he gained the respect of all. A member of the local Cricket Club he was the clerk of the course for the Watchem Racing Club, and one of our most prominent [indecipherable] "Wally", as he was generally known as, was a great lover of a game of football . . . His remains were brought from Melbourne by the evening train on Thursday . . . the local station was thronged with people . . .

william john gilchrist walter gilchrist

The photo on the left is from the 'Pinker (kimnned)' family tree on Ancestry and shows William John Gilchrist with his sister Beatrice.
The one on the right is of Walter Herbert Gilchrist (AWM PO8345.001).

3. Francis James (Frank) Gilchrist (1886-1928). Born at Corack, Frank was working as a contractor when he married Margaret Gertrude Naughton (1886-1967) in Victoria in 1914. According to the 'Dunn/Hay Family Tree' on Ancestry, Margaret was the eldest daughter of James Naughton (1854-1914) and Mary Ann Sexton (1869-98) who were married in Victoria in 1885 and had seven children in addition to Margaret: Mary Ann (1888-1967), John Patrick (1890-1966), Patrick Joseph (1892-1947), Malachy Michael (1894-1927), Peter (1894-1910), Bridget (1895-1951) and James Thomas Naughton (1898-1972).

James Naughton's obituary, published in the Birchip Advertiser on 20 May 1914, tells us he had been attending a stock sale at Watchem when he fell ill and subsequently died. A native of County Galway in Ireland, James had settled land at Morton's Plains in around 1874 and 'leaves a grown-up family, consisting of three daughters and four sons to mourn his loss. The funeral, which was very largely attended, took place at Watchem'. James' wife, Mary Ann, was born at Purrumbete in South Australia and died at Wirrim Birchip in Victoria. Her parents, Peter Sexton (1836-1915) and Mary Jane O'Leary (1843-1903) both came from County Galway in Ireland and both died at Watchem. Peter Sexton's obituary, published in the Birchip Advertiser on 14 July 1915, tells us: 'he landed in Australia by the "Donald McKay" in 1868 [and initially] worked in the Western District about Colac and Camperdown'. In around 1881 he settled at Moreton's Plains 'where he engaged in farming very successfully. He retired to Watchem about five years ago, where he has since resided. He has two brothers in the State, viz: Mr John Sexton, Stawell, and Mr. Jerry Sexton, Birchip. His wife and two sons, Michael and John, and one daughter [our Mary Ann] pre-deceased him. He leaves two sons and four daughters, Peter and Patrick and Mrs J. Supple, Mrs T. Connellaon, Mrs P. Connelly and Mrs S. Curtis'. His funeral, which was also said to be largely attended, also took place at the Watchem cemetery.

The Australian electoral rolls show that after their marriage in 1914, Frank and Margaret lived at Watchem where Frank died in 1928. As a report in the Melbourne Argus describes, his death was the result of an unusual and unfortunate accident: 'Frank Gilchrist, shearer was crutching sheep at Mrs W. Blair's farm at Watchem when he swallowed a disinfectant for cold tea. A doctor was quickly in attendance, and ordered the man's removal to St Arnaud Hospital. He died the following day, leaving a wife and three children' (14 April 1928). Margaret continued to live at Watchem until her own death there in 1967. As noted in the report of Frank's death, they had three children.

3.1) Born at Donald, Frank and Margaret's eldest daughter, Irene Gertrude Gilchrist (1914-2008), married a local farmer, Henry (Harry) Belleville (1908-76), at Watchem in 1936. The 'Brady Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us Harry's parents were Lucien Charles Belleville (1871-1963), who was born at Geelong and died at Donald, and Sarah Ann Blair (1875-1952), who was born at Donald and died at Watchem. They were married at Donald on 13 September 1899 and had five children in addition to Henry: Mary Caterina (1900-91), Sarah Alma (1903-87), Lucien (1905-75), Robert Augustine (1907-83) and John William Belleville (1912-2003).

Harry's grandfather was Lucien Belleville (1843-86) who was born at Neuchatel in Switzerland and died at Watchem. He married Mary Anne Kennedy (1842-1935) at Geelong on 21 August 1866 and had six children. Mary Ann died at Watchem in 1935, her death notice in the Melbourne Age reads: 'BELLEVILLE - On the 25th October, at Watchem, Mary Ann, beloved mother of John (Newmarket), Luclen (Watchem), Mrs. Blair (Watchem), Mrs. Grace (Essendon), Joseph (Mildura), Mrs. Cartwrlght (Watchem), aged 91 years' (29 October 1935). Terry Belleville, who lives in Canada but was born in Melbourne and is a descendant of Lucien Belleville, provided Darryl Brady with the following interesting background information about his ancestor:

. . . on September 2 1863 [Lucien] departed London for Port Philip (Melbourne) on the steamship "King of the Seas" [and] arrived on January 18 1864 after a voyage of 140 days. His reason to emigrate was to join Jean Belleville (a brother, I believe), who had arrived in February 1863, aboard the ship "Merie Monarch". Jean was one of a contingent of Swiss vineyard workers who were encouraged to come to the colony by the former governor, La Trobe. La Trobe had been educated in Neuchatel. He married the daughter of a Swiss Councillor of State who had a country house near Jolimont, a tourist resort popular with the townsfolk of Neuchatel. On arrival, Jean and his countrymen cleared land near Lilydale (outside Melbourne), named the area Neuchatel and planted vines. The vines failed and the workers drifted away. The episode is covered in the official history of the Croydon area. The name Neuchatel still appears on some maps of the Lilydale area. Jean left Australia and went to America where the land was cheaper and where there were better farming prospects. Lucien remained and took a job as a labourer in Geelong, a city close to Melbourne, also on Port Philip Bay. In 1866 he married Mary Anne Kennedy, the daughter of Irish immigrants. Three children were born in Geelong.

One of Harry's cousins, Joseph Patrick Belleville, is pictured in the photo below of Bert Gilchrist and his First AIF colleagues from the Watchem-Massey-Corack area. Allocated to the 29th Battalion, they all fought at the battle of Polygon Wood in Belgium where Joseph and his friend, Arthur Wilkinson (also pictured below), were both killed in action. Another of Joseph's 29th Battalion comrades, Frank Hennesey, wrote to Joseph's parents to tell them: 'We were in action on 27th September and your dear lad was killed when we went over the top. I was at his side when it happened, but death was instantaneous. You can rest assured he was prepared for it. He was a good living boy and never neglected his spiritual duties . . . I took his watch from his wrist and will send it on to you as soon as possible' (cited in the Donald Times, 4 December 1917).

The Australian electoral rolls show that Harry and Irene spent all of their married lives farming at Watchem where Harry died in 1976. He was buried in the Watchem Cemetery where Irene joined him after her death at Donald in 2008. Their gravestone, shown on the 'Billion Graves' Website, reads: 'Henry Belleville died 6 January 1976 aged 67 years. Also his beloved wife and our mother Irene Gertrude Belleville died 1 March 2008 aged 93 years. Loved parents of Claire, Frank, Terry, Denis and Roger'. The family's tribute to Irene, published in the Melbourne Herald Sun on 3 March 2008, provides a little more information about her and Harry's family: 'BELLEVILLE (nee Gilchrist) - Irene Passed away peacefully at Donald, 1 March 2008 aged 93. Beloved wife of Harry (dec). Loving mother of Claire, Frank, Terry, Denis and Roger. Mother-in-law to Frank Lowry (dec), Margaret, Lana and Fran. Nana of 14, great Nana of 30, great great Nana of one'.

herman reither3.2) Rita Theresa Gilchrist (1917-2010) married Arthur Gordon (Blue) Reither at Watchem in Victoria in 1940. Born at Ballan near Baccus Marsh in western Victoria in 1911, Arthur's parents were Ernest Albert Reither (1868-1942), born at Landsborough and died at Ballarat, and Marion Bryce (1876-1966), born at St Arnaud and died at Ballarat. They were married at St Arnaud in Victoria in 1898 and had as many as ten other children: Albert Dawson (1898-1971), Lillian Howard (1900-72), Charles Ernest (1902-76), Susan Jane (1904-73), Herman (1906-45), Marion (1908-80), Elsie (1909-80), Bessie (1914-83) Alfred Norman (1918-2003) and Beatrice Reither (1920-78). Arthur's paternal grandfather was Prussian-born Charles Augustus Reither (1826-1901) who married an English woman, Susan Howard (1831-1911) in Adelaide in 1853 and also had eleven children.

The DVA's WW2 nominal roll shows that Arthur and two of his brothers - Herman and Charles Ernest, both of whom were born at St Arnaud, all served in the Australian Army during the Second World War. Arthur and Charles were both discharged on 19 October 1945 while serving as private soldiers with the 15th Battalion VDC and the 12th Garrison Company respectively. Herman, pictured on the right, served as a driver in the 4th Reserve Motor Company which went to Singapore with the Australian 8th Division. His record in the Australian War Memorial tells us 'he was one of over 2000 Allied prisoners of war (POW) held in the Sandakan POW camp in north Borneo, having been transferred there from Singapore as a part of B Force. The 1494 POW's that made up B Force, were transported from Changi on 7 July 1942 on board the tramp ship Ubi Maru, arriving in Sandakan Harbour on 18 July 1942. Driver Reither, aged 38, died as a prisoner of the Japanese on 8 August 1945. He is buried in the Labuan Cemetery, Section 16, Row E, Plot 11'.

The Australian electoral rolls show that after the war Arthur and Rita continued to live at Watchem where Arthur worked as a labourer. He died there on 25 July 1992 and is buried in the local cemetery. Rita died on 12 November 2010 and is buried with Arthur at Watchem. Her tribute, published in the Melbourne Herald Sun, on 13 November 2010, tells us she was the 'Beloved wife of the late Gordon ('Blue') Reither. Mother of Brian, Margaret (McIntyre), Gordon, Ross, Kathleen (Follard), Mary (Rankine) and Michael. Fond mother-in-law of Sandra, Morris, Alfred, Carol, Kathy, Brian, Andy and Judy. Adored Nana of 95 grandchildren and great grandchildren'.

3.3) James Francis Gilchrist (1919-61) married Jean Margaret Blair (1929-82), daughter of Harry Blair and Ivy Williams (1889-1972), at Watchem in 1957. They lived all their married lives at Watchem where James worked as a labourer. He died at Watchem in 1961, she in 1982. They are buried together in the local cemetery, their gravestone indicating they had three boys: John, Robert and Kevin Gilchrist.

4. Charles Bertie (Bert) Gilchrist (1893-1975). Born and raised at Watchem, Bert enlisted in the First AIF at nearby Donald on 16 June 1916. As reported in the Donald Times on 23 May, he was one of

Four well-known Watchem footballers, Messrs. E. C. Wilkinson, W. L. M'Curdy, B. C. Gilchrist, and J. P. Belleville, [who] came down to Donald yesterday to record their names as volunteers. These men will be an acquisition to the ranks, and will uphold the reputation the district has gained through the fine class of men who are enlisting. Since the above was written we learn that the following volunteers have passed the medical examination: Eric Cyril Wilkinson, Jos. Peter Belleville, Bertie Chas. Gilchrist, and Edwin Beckham [Bert, Eric Wilkinson and Joseph Belleville are all shown in the photo below].

Allocated to the 29th Battalion, Bert and his colleagues departed from Australia on the HMAT A73 COMMONWEALTH on 19 September 1916 and arrived at Plymouth in England on 14 November the same year. They proceeded to Etaples in France four weeks later and thence to the 29th Battalion which, on 26 September 1917, played a major role in the battle for Polygon Wood near Ypres in Belgium. For his actions at Polygon Wood, Bert was later awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. His award citation, contained in the records of the Australian War memorial, stated: 'This soldier has at all times displayed exceptional coolness and conspicuous bravery under fire. As a Coy runner he has proved himself invaluable to his OC in the difficult work of keeping touch with his command under very serious bombardments. He has taken part in all the recent battle operations and in all he rendered [indecipherable] service, has never failed in getting through with information, and has always shown an absolute disregard of personal danger' (18 October 1918). Bert was also mentioned in despatches for carrying messages under heavy enemy fire on the night 27/28 July 1918 (probably during the battle of Morlancourt). Not long after this he returned to England after being injured accidentally in the field and suffering a fractured zygomatic bone in the foot. The Defence Department in Australia seems to have misunderstood the nature of Bert's injury as it subsequently informed his parents that 'their son, Pte. Bert Gilchrist, has been seriously injured in the face [and] is at present in No. 1 Birmingham Hospital, England' (Donald Times, 25 October 1918). After spending some time in England, Bert was transferred to the 5th Battalion with which he returned to Australia on the CERAMIC on 25 January 1919. He was discharged from the Army in May of the same year.

bert gilchrist and colleagues

Group portrait of men from the Watchem-Massey-Corack area of North Central Victoria. Back row (L/R):
3890 Private John Gustave 'Gus' Wilkinson, 3754 Pte Joseph Peter Belleville and 3889 Pte Eric Cyril Wilkinson.
Front row: 3791 Pte Charles Bertie 'Bert' Gilchrist and 3888 Pte Arthur Ernest Wilkinson. All five served in the 29th Battalion.
Joseph Belleville, who was a cousin of Bert Gilchrist's nephew, and Arthur Wilkinson were both killed in action at Polygon Wood.

The Australian electoral rolls show Bert was back living with his family at Watchem at the time of the 1919 and 1924 elections. On 25 April 1924, the following marriage notice appeared in the Melbourne Argus: 'GILCHRIST - SHEED. On the 1st March, at St Paul's Geelong, by the Rev Edgar Wood, Charles B., third son of Mr and Mrs J. Gilchrist, Watchem, to Dorothy Grace, second daughter of Mr and Mrs F. Sheed, North Geelong'. The 'Owen-Gilchrist Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us that Dorothy was born at Elmore in central Victoria on 8 June 1900, the daughter of Francis Sheed (1869-1953) and Eliza Cawtheray Prince (1877-1964). It adds that Francis, who was born at Sailor's Creek and died at Daylesford in Victoria, and Eliza, born at Avenel and died at Kyneton, were married in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton in 1896. They had five children in addition to Dorothy: Daisy Frances (1897-1995), Vera Florence (1904-86), Leila Mary (1906-2004), John Joseph (1908-2002) and Jean Avenel Sheed (1916-2005). Leila Mary Sheed married Bert Gilchrist's younger brother, Leslie Gordon Gilchrist, at Daylesford in 1935 (see below). Dorothy's maternal grandparents were Joseph Blackburn Cawtheray Prince (1840-1903) who was born at Leeds in Yorkshire in England and died at Avenel in Victoria, and Eliza Jane Mutton (1853-1937) who was born and died at Avenel in Victoria (she and Joseph were married in nearby Seymour in 1870). Her paternal grandparents were John Sheed (1834-1914) from Aberdeen in Scotland and Jane Frances Delargy (1834-1908) from County Antrim in Ireland.

wedding of charles bertram gilchrist

Wedding of Bert Gilchrist and Dorothy Grace Sheed at Geelong in 1924.

sheed sisters

Dorothy Grace Gilchrist nee Sheed (on the left) and her sister Leila Mary Gilchrist nee Sheed
at Albury with Dorothy's son-in-law Kenneth James Owen.

The Australian electoral rolls show Bert, who worked all his life as a labourer, and Dorothy Grace lived out their lives at Watchem where Bert died in 1975 and Dorothy in 1987. They are buried together in the Watchem cemetery and had four children we are aware of:

john francis gilchrist4.1) John Francis (Jack) Gilchrist (1924-1970). The DVA's WW2 nominal roll shows that Jack, who was born at Watchem on 8 November 1924, enlisted in the RAAF at Melbourne on 19 November 1942. He was then living at the Melbourne suburb of Kew and gave as his NOK Charles Gilchrist. He was discharged on 16 January 1946 while serving as a Leading Aircraftman at 1 Stores Depot. Three years later Jack (pictured on the left) became engaged to and later married Doreen Kerr Cross, 'youngest daughter of Mrs Cross and the late Mr Cross of Orbost' (Melbourne Argus, 22 January 1949).

Darryl Brady's website tells us that Doreen's parents were Joseph Roland Page Cross (1884-1946) and Laura Kerr (1887-1960) who were married at Bairnsdale in 1908 and had ten children. His military file in the Australian Archives shows that Joseph, a 33 year-old butter maker who was born at Delegate River in Victoria, enlisted in the First AIF at Sale on 17 February 1917. Appointed as a driver in the Australian Field Artillery, he sailed from Melbourne on the A15 PORT SYDNEY in November 1917. After spending some time in hospital in Egypt, he reached Southampton in February 1918 and went on to France in September of that year. In April 1919 he was again hospitalised (in England with acute bronchitis) before returning home to Australia on the KAROOLA in May 1919.

The Australian electoral rolls show that Jack, who worked as a carpenter, and Doreen lived first at Carrum and then Box Hill in Melbourne where Jack died in 1970. He was buried in the Springvale Botanical Cemetery on 19 October of that year. Doreen and their children continued to live at Box Hill until at least the early 1980s (the 1977 roll has a Janet Catherine Gilchist living with her). Doreen died at the Melbourne suburb of Wantirna in 2008, her tribute in the Melbourne Herald Sun reads: 'GILCHRIST - Doreen. 1927 - 2008. Dearly loved mother of Susan, Gary (dec) and Janet. Loved sister to Cath and loved mother-in-law of John and John D. Cherished Grandmother of 10 and adored Great Grandmother of 12' (26 August 2008). The tribute for their only son, Gary Joseph Gilchrist, who passed away in Brisbane on 5 July 2006, tells us he was the 'Much loved and loving husband of Libby. Loving father of Tim, Ryan, Simon and Michael, loved father-in-law of Samantha and Jenelle. Loving and devoted Granddad to Alannah,Megan and Tayla. Loving only son of Doreen and Jack (dec) (Herald Sun, 7 July 2006).

4.2) Ivan Charles Gilchrist (1926-2017). The 28 April 1947 edition of the Melbourne Argus contained the following engagement notice: 'SMITH-GILCHRIST. Rosemary Jean, eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Smith, Grey street, Donald, late of Moe, to Ivan Charles, second son of Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Gilchrist, Watchem'. The Australian electoral rolls show Ivan Charles, a plumber, and Rosemary Jean Gilchrist living at Watchem at the time of the 1949 election (the roll also indicates they moved to Canberra on 20 February 1950). The same roll included a William John, railway employee, and Bertha Emerald Smith, living on Gray Street in Donald.

According to the 'Wallace-Howard Family Tree' on Ancestry, William John Smith (1904-94) and Bertha Emerald Le Juge (1904-2009), were married in Victoria in 1926 and both died in Bendigo. The 'Find a Grave' website tells us they are buried together in the Eaglehawk Cemetery, their gravestone stating they were the 'loved parents of Rosemary, Billie and Jennifer' (one of the latter two may have married Stuart Sydney Robinson (1926-2001). The 'Wallace-Howard Family Tree' adds that Bertha was the only child of Ferdinand Thomas Le Juge (1866-1945) and his second wife, Isabella Sutherland (1867-1932), who he married in Victoria in 1898. Ferdinand was at one stage a councillor, and for two years the president, of Victoria's Ferntree Gulley Shire as well as the registrar of births, deaths and marriages for the surrounding district of Emerald. He had been first married to Sarah Ann Spence (1868-94) with whom he had five children. Ferdinand's parents were Prussian-born Louis Ferdinand Le Juge (1833-86), who died at Albury in NSW, and Elizabeth Skinner (1845-1928) who was born at Hobart and died in Melbourne. They were married in Victoria in 1862 and had eight children.

As noted earlier, Ivan and Rosemary moved from Donald to the Australian Capital Territory in 1950. The Australian electoral rolls show them living on Twelvth Street in Narrabundah in 1954, Duffy Street Ainslie in 1958, Majura Ave Dickson in 1963 and 1968, Grayson Street Hacket in 1972, and Nungara Street in Aranda in 1977 and 1980. In 1990 they both joined Walking for Pleasure, a Canberra-based, volunteer-run association which organises guided walks for its members. As described in an association publication, '25 Years on - A history of ACT Walking for Pleasure 1987-2012', over the next twenty years, Ivan and Rosemary served in a number of official positions within WFP, were responsible for running its coach trips and preparing and distributing its newsletter, and for introducing the highly popular Friday walks, In August 1994, they were awarded life memberships of WFP, the certificates being presented to them at the commencement of a walk that began outside the Queanbeyan railway station. On 15 April 2010, Rosemary and Ivan were further honoured:

. . . at a memorable Thursday Stroll when 51 members arrived at the Carillon to mark the Gilchrist's retirement from the last of their official positions with WFP [Chief Co-ordinators of the Thursday Strolls]. Rosemary and Ivan's involvement with WFP had spanned more than twenty years. Ivan served as Vice President, President, Co-ordinator, and Chief Co-ordinator. Rosemary was a committee member and a Chief Co-ordinator. In addition, Rosemary and Ivan conducted 26 Coach Trips for WFP. After the walk, more than 80 past and present members of WFP gathered for coffee/cake, speeches and a presentation event at the Regatta Point Pavilion.

Sometime after this, like many other Canberrans, Ivan and Rosemary went to live on the NSW South Coast where Ivan died in 2017. His death notice, publisned in the Canberra Times on 29 April 2017, reads: 'Ivan Charles Gilchrist 1 January 1926 - 14 April 2017. Passed away peacefully at home in Burrill Lake, formerly of Canberra. Dearly loved husband of Rosemary. Cherished father of Joan and Julie, father-in-law of Michael and Skip. Grandfather of Kelli, Nigel (dec), Ben, Chloe and Paul. Great Grandfather of Nick, Alex and Sophie'.

gilchrists in canberra

Ivan and Rosemary Gilchrist (centre-front) at their final WFP Thursday Stroll along Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra on 15 April 2010.

4.3) Doreen Mary Owen. The following engagement notice appeared in the Melbourne Argus on 24 June 1949: 'GILCHRIST - OWEN. Doreen, only daughter of Mr and Mrs. C B. Gilchrist, to Kenneth James, third son of Mr and Mrs. V. H. Owen. Drummond North'. They were married the following year. The DVA's WW2 nominal roll shows a Kenneth James Owen, born in Melbourne on 28 September 1924, enlisted in the Australian Army there on 5 October 1943. He was then living at Oakleigh and gave as his NOK Victor Owen. He was discharged on 21 January 1946 while serving as a private soldier with 4 Australian Returned Stores Depot. The nominal roll also shows that Kenneth's father, Victor Hugo Owen, born at Albert Park in Melbourne on 19 March 1894, had earlier enlisted in the Australian Army at Royal Park on 3 January 1941. He was then living at West Brunswick and gave as his NOK Florence Owen. He was discharged on 31 January 1946 at which time he was a Sergeant with Vic Ech & Records.

Judy Owen's 'Owen-Gilchrist Family Tree' on Ancestry tells us that Ken's parents were Victor Hugo Owen (1894-1965), who was born at St Kilda and died at Shepparton, and Florence Maud Hellyar, who was born at Maryborough and also died at Shepparton. They were married in Melbourne in 1913 and had ten children: Victor Archibald (1914-2000), Gordon Campbell (born in 1921), Ronald Lachlan (1926-71), Malcolm Geoffrey (1928-98) and five others. Victor was the son of a Scot, William Blackley Dinwoodie Owen (1867-1948), and a Melbourne-ite, Emily Brooks (1870-1935) who had eleven children. Florence's parents were Charles Hellya (1867-1947) and Louisa Amelia Backway (1861-1909).

The Australian electoral rolls show a Kenneth James A. Owen, a 'Com. emp', living with his parents at Drummond North near Ballarat in 1949. At the time of the 1954 election, Ken, now a painter, and Doreen Mary Owen were at Malmsbury near Kyneton. From then until 1980 they were registered as living at 27 Jillcoe Ave in Tallangatta (the 1977 roll has living with them a Geoffrey William and Ian James Owen, both bank clerks). Throughout this time Ken was said to be a cleaner. The Ryerson Index shows a Kenneth James Alexander (Ken) Owen, aged 88 years, died on 11 May 2013. His tribute in the Melbourne Herald Sun reads: 'OWEN - Kenneth James Alexander 24.09.1924 - 11.05.2013. Passed away peacefully. Dearly loved husband of Doreen for 63 years. Adored father of Geoff and Jocelyn, Judy, Ian, Helen and Paul. Doting Pa to 11 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Reunited with Jason, Jordon and Ken'. The same source tells us Ken and Doreen's eldest daughter, Judy, died at Albury two years later. Her tribute in the Herald Sun reads: 'OWEN - Judith Anne. Passed away suddenly on Sunday July 19, 2015 at Albury Base Hospital, aged 62 years. Dearly loved Mumma of Jason (dec), Gayle and Skye-Lea. Devoted Grandma to Jordan (dec), Vanessa-Rose, Jake, Abbey, Corey and Jed. Beloved daughter of Ken (dec) and Doreen. Loved sister of Geoff, Ian and Helen. Cherished Aunty to her nieces and nephews' (21 July 2015).

4.4) Roy William Gilchrist (1927-2015). Ancestry and Australian National Archive records indicates that Roy William Gilchrist, born at Donald on 11 August 1927, enlisted in the RAAF at Laverton in Melbourne sometime between 1939 and 1948. He gave as his NOK Charles Gilchrist. The Australian electoral rolls show Roy William Gilchrist, farmer, at Watchem in 1949, 1954 and 1963. Roy, still a farmer, and Elise Gilchrist were at Watchem in 1967, 1968, 1972 and 1977. The Ryerson Index shows Roy William Gilchrist died at Donald on 2 August 2015. His tribute published in the Melbourne Herald Sun on 4 August 2015 reads: 'GILCHRIST - Roy William. On Aug. 2, 2015 at his home, Donald. Suddenly in his 88th year. Loved husband of Elise. Dearly loved and devoted father of Jill, Robin, Andrew and Graham. Fond father-in-law and friend of Joe, Les, Linda and Julia. Loved granddad to Alyssa and Quinn; Samantha and Ryan; and Cameron'. We believe he is buried in the Watchem cemetery.

5. Leslie Gordon Gilchrist (1889-1952). Leslie was born and grew up in Watchem where he later worked as a labourer. It is likely he attended and may even have been best man at his brother Bert Gilchrist's marriage to Dorothy Grace Sheed at Geelong in 1924. There he would have met Dorothy’s younger sister, and Leslie’s future wife, Leila Mary Sheed ( 1906-2004) who could also have been Dorothy's bridesmaid. Born at Little River in the You Yangs between Geelong and Werribee, Leila lived with her parents, Francis and Eliza Sheed nee Prince until her marriage in 1935. As Francis worked as a station master for the Victorian railways Leila and her family lived in a number of places: St Arnaud in 1924, Kyneton in 1931 and Daylesford in 1935. She continued to move around after her and Leslie's marriage, the Australian electoral rolls showing them at Watchem in 1936, Warracknabeal in 1937, Finley in NSW in 1943 and back at Watchem in 1949. Over this time Leslie worked as a labourer, caterer, road contractor and store keeper. He died at Watchem in 1952 and was buried in the local cemetery. Leila was still at Watchem at the time of the 1963 election after which she moved to Daylesford where her sister Jean Avenel Harris (1916-2005) and her husband David were living. Leila died at Daylesford in 2004, her tribute in the Melbourne Herald Sun reading: 'GILCHRIST - Leila Mary. Passed away peacefully on July 11, 2004 at the Thomas Hogan Wing, Kyneton Hospital. Loved sister of Daisy, Dorothy, Vera, Jack (all dec) and Jean. Loved sister-in-law of David' (12 July 2004). She is buried with Leslie in the Watchem cemetery. We think they had only one child, a daughter, who died very young.

leslie gordon gilchrist francis & eliza sheed

The photo on the left is of Leslie Gordon Gilchrist and his father John Thomas Gilchrist. That on the right is of
Dorothy and Leila Sheed's parents, Francis Sheed (1869-1953) and Eliza Cawtheray Prince (1877-1964).

6.Stanley Robert (Bob) Gilchrist (1903-80). Born at Watchem, Bob attended primary school, played football and worked there, as a labourer and road contractor, until 5 August 1940 when he enlisted in the Australian Army at Caulfield in Melbourne. By that stage both his parents had died so he gave as his NOK his oldest brother, William John Gilchrist. He was allocated to the Ordnance Corps and was an acting Cpl when, on 21 June 1942, he married Sheila Gellert (1918-2008) at St John's Lutheran Church in Melbourne (a photo of the wedding party is shown below). Bob's military file was amended accordingly, showing the young couple were then living in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray. Sheila was born at Willaura near Ararat in western Victoria, the youngest daughter of a local farmer, Ernst Heinrich Gellert (1869-1945) and his wife Caroline Burger (1877-1959) who were married in 1904. Sheila's siblings were Alvina Gunilda (1905-11), Wilhelm Theodore (1907-14), Ernst Clemens (born in 1907), Victor Clermont (1912) and Philip Edmund Gellert (1914). Her paternal grandparents, Johann Friedrich Gellert (1840-1934) and Anna Matuschka (1838-1915), both German born, were married in 1863 at Tabor, located between Hamilton and Penshurst in Victoria, where their respective families had originally settled.

Bob Gilchrist's military file shows he was allocated to the 2/10th Ordnance Field Park and sailed from Sydney on 10 January 1942. His and his unit's destination was Singapore at which they arrived less than two weeks before the British commander, General Percival, unconditionally surrendered the allied forces to the attacking Japanese Army. Along with his comrades, Bob was posted as missing on 16 February 1942 and as a prisoner-of-war (POW) in Thailand on 15 May 1943. By this time Sheila had gone back to Willaura where she and their newly-born daughter, Lilian, would spend the rest of the war with Sheila's family. Even though she had no idea what had happened to her husband and would have been uncertain, even, if he was still alive, Sheila kept writing and sending photos to him. One of the photos, of her and their daughter Lilian, is shown below on the left. The first news he had had of his daughter, it was not received by Bob until late 1944, some two years after Sheila was born. On 10 May 1945, Sheila wrote to the Army's Melbourne Records Office asking if they had any additional news of Bob. They replied that information obtained from former POWs included that 'a member believed to be Cpl Gilchrist S. R. of 2/10 Ord Fd Pk, was last seen in Thailand in March 1944, and his condition at that date was saidd to be "well"'.

Much more heartening news of Bob appeared on 12 September 1945 - the same time as the death of Sheila's father Ernst Gellert - when, as reported in the Melbourne Argus: 'Prisoner-of-war messages from Saigon were picked up on Monday night by the Department of Information's listening post, with the standard message: "Am safe and well in British hands. Hope to be home soon. Writing, Reply c/o 2nd Australian Prisoner of War Reception Group." The full list of names of men known to be safe in Saigon has already been published. [The} Victorians who have been sent messages', the article went on to say, included a 'Mrs S. Gilchrist. Willaura, from F. R. or S. R. Gilchrist'. The earlier report mentioned, provided its readers with details of the source of the information as as well as a brief account of what their loved ones had been through since their capture by the Japanese:

The Department of Information on Saturday picked up a message from a Padre, VX17548, and a name which sounded like Frank Kellow, who said he was speaking in the names of 164 Australian prisoners of war living in a camp near the docks of Saigon, French Indo-China. The message said it was great to be able to speak to Australia again, and to say how pleased all were at the end of the war. This opportunity was taken of sending greetings to all loved ones and friends. The broadcast had been made possible by the co-operation of French officers, who were landed by parachute in Indo-China some days ago. Most of the Australians in the camp (the message continued) were those captured in Singapore in February, 1942, but a few were taken in Java in March of that year. Since then they had travelled and worked in many countries. The prisoners brought from Singapore went to Siam in 1942, and returned to Singapore in 1944. Early this year the prisoners from Java, after working in Burma and Siam, joined the others at Singapore, and all came to Indo-China. The message added that the health of the troops was fair, and food was good. The morale of the Australians was high even in most difficult times. Their traditional sense of humour had helped them much. Most had not received more than two batches of mail in 3½ years. The padre then called on Sgt-Major May, senior N.C.O., to call the roll. [The names of Victorians as recorded by the Department of Information included, 2nd Field Workshops Ordnance Corps - VX47839 L/Cpl. S. R. Gilchrist] (Melbourne Age, 3 September 1945).

Bob arrived back in Australia in October 1945 and was discharged from the Army in December of that year. On 6 March 1946 he wrote to The Victorian Echelon and Records Office asking for the decision to base his military payout and pension at LCpl level be reconsidered in view of the fact he had served as a Cpl for a good part of his time overseas. 'It seems very unjust', he told the Office, 'that I and many others that were sent in there as (gift troops to the Japanese) should suffer the financial loss of over 200 [pounds] just because everything was in chaos at that time'. The Office sought advice from the relevant authorities who, needless to say, ruled that Bob had had been officially reverted to Lcpl when he left for overseas service and so had only been an acting corporal during all that time as he was away.

robert gilchrist wedding

Wedding of Sheila Gellert and Stanley Robert (Bob) Gilchrist at St Johns Lutheran Church in Melbourne on 21 June 1941.
L/R: best man Francis (Frank) Watson, the groom Bob Gilchrist, the bride Sheila Gilchrist and bridesmaid Dot Ranahan.
Frank Watson was captured in Singapore and taken a prisoner of war (POW) by the Japanese. He died on the Sandakan death
march on 4 July 1945 aged thirty three. Bob Gilchrist was also captured in Singapore on 15 February 1942. As a POW
he worked on the Burma-Thailand railway, returned to Singapore, then went to Saigon
to work on the Bien Hoa air base. (Donor L. Mynard)

sheila gilchrist bob gilchrist

From the Australian War Memorial archives, the photo on the left is of Sheila Gilchrist nee Gellert and her and Bob's daughter, Lilian.
Bob received the photograph in late 1944 while he was a POW in Saigon working on the Bien Hoa air base. It was the first news
he had received of his daughter (AWM P02166.003). The photo on the right is the first taken after Bob's return to Australia
after spending three and a half years as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. From L/R: Sheila, Bob and Bob's niece
Grace Bourke nee Besseler. The two children are Lilian Gilchrist and Maxine Bourke (AWM P02166.004).

The Australian electoral rolls show that after his return, Bob and Sheila went to live at Newborough, a town adjacent to Yallourn in Victoria's Latrobe Valley. Bob's younger brother, Donald Edwin Gilchrist, and a number of other members of their family - including Grace Bourke (see the photo above on the right) - were then living there. Bob worked as a fitter's assistant while Donald was a turbine driver. Bob and Sheila remained at Newborough until the late 1960s and had three additional children there. The family then moved to the Melbourne suburb of Seaford where Bob died in 1980 and was buried in the Springvale Botanical Cemetery (E E Simpson Lawn, Row Y, Grave 49). Sheila died in Melbourne in 2008 and is buried with Bob at Springvale. Her family's tribute to her, published in the Herald Sun on 7 May 2008, reads: 'GILCHRIST - Sheila. 18.12.1918 - 06.05.2008. Loving wife to Bob (dec), loving companion to Bill (dec). Much loved mother to Lilian, John, Heather and Ron. A caring and loved mother-in-law to Peter, Diane, Brian and Debra. Admired and loved by her grandchildren Andrew, Jo, Tony, Cheryl, Shane (dec), Craig, Kate, Chris and Robbie and their families. Mum faced many hard times with courage and determination. A Life Well Lived'.

7. Donald Edwin Gilchrist (1906-81) married Elizabeth Frances Talbot (1909-77) in 1928, probably at Watchem although that has still to be confirmed. Born at Brunswick Park in East Barnet in London, Elizabeth was the only child of two Londoners, Henry Thomas Talbot (1879-1934) and Edith Jane Baynham (1884-1967), who were married in the parish church at Friern Barnet in north London on 15 June 1907. The UK 1911 census shows them all living at nearby Southgate where Henry was working an asylum attendant. In November 1922 the family sailed from London to Australia on the steam ship EURIPODES. The Australian electoral rolls show a Henry Thomas and Edith J. Talbot living on Hoban Street in Watchem at the time of the 1926 and 1927 elections. Henry was said to be working as a tradesman although he also held a billiard table licence which he later transferred to a C. M. Steinman. Shortly after their daughter Elizabeth's marriage to Donald Gilchrist, they all moved to Drouin in Victoria's west Gippsland region.

Edith and Henry, who worked at Drouin as a fruiterer, left there a few years later for Melbourne where Henry died in 1934. An application for the grant of probate published in the 17 April edition of the Melbourne Argus tells us Henry was then a storekeeper and he and Edith were living at 137 Victoria Parade in the inner Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy (the Victorian index of deaths shows that Henry, then aged 55 years, was the son of George Talbot and Frances Emma Arnold and that he had died at the nearby suburb of Richmond). Edith, who worked as a confectioner and later a 'proprietoress', continued to live in Melbourne until around 1950 when she sailed 1st Class from Australia to London on the MOOLTON of the Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation Company Ltd. Her final destination in England was Devizes in the County of Wiltshire where she died in 1967. The England and Wales National Probate Calendar shows probate from her will was granted to a Walter Ireland, solicitor, of Bristol.

The Australian electoral rolls show Donald Edwin, a grocer and later a turbine driver, and Elizabeth Frances Gilchrist lived at Yallourn and later the adjacent township of Newborough in the Gippsland Latrobe Valley until around 1977. The Australian War Memorial's Second World War database shows that Donald enlisted in the Australian Army at Yallourn on 18 March 1942. He gave as his next of kin his wife Elizabeth, and served in the 12th Battalion of the Volunteer Defence Corps. His date of discharge is unknown. The Victorian index of BDMs shows Elizabeth Frances Gilchrist, aged 68 years and daughter of Henry Thomas Talbot and Edith Jane Baynham, died at Newborough in 1977. Sometime after this, Donald moved to Melbourne, where his brother Bob Gilchrist and his family were living, and where Donald died at Hawthorn in 1981. He was cremated at the Springvale Botanical Crematorium on 9 December of that year. We believe he and Elizabeth had three children: Walter Talbot Gilchrist (1929-94) and two others. The Ryerson Index shows that a Walter Talbot Gilchrist, 65 and 'late of Bundaberg Queensland and and formerly of Uralla NSW' died on 9 February 1994. His death notice published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 Februaty 1994, reads: 'GILCHRIST, Walter Talbot - February 9, 1994, Beloved husband of Lillian Grace, dearly loved father of Graeme and Malcolm, loving grandfather of Rohan, Samantha, Bianca and Jeremy, loved brother of Georgina and Joy. Aged 65 years'.

Image sources
John Thomas and Phoebe Ann Gilchrist nee Free and the Gilchrist family in around 1912, courtesy of Cheryl Kerr.
'William John Gilchrist with his sister Beatrice' from the 'Pinker (limnned)' family tree on Ancestry.
'Wedding of Charles Bertram Gilchrist and Dorothy Grace Sheed', 'Dorothy and Leila with Ken Owen', and 'John Francis (Jack) Gilchrist' from the 'Owen-Gilchrist Family Tree' on Ancestry.
'Leslie Gordon Gilchrist with his father John Thomas Gilchrist' from the 'McQuienn Family Tree' on Ancestry.
'Francis and Eliza Sheed' from the 'Counihan Family Tree' on Ancestry.
'Ivan and Rosemary Gilchrist in 2010' from '25 Years on - A history of ACT Walking for Pleasure 1987-2012' (back cover).
The remainder are all from the Australian War Memorial's archives.

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