Family and descendants of
William and Frances Hickmott nee Free

(last updated 10 February 2017)

William Henry Hickmott (1887-1976) and Frances Alice Free (1891-1979) were married at Lalbert in central Victoria on 29 June 1910. Their children and descendants are detailed in the late Win Noblet's two books on the family: The Hickmott Story 1825-1981 (Cambridge Press, Bendigo 1981) and The Hickmott Story continued (Digital Print Australia, Adelaide 2014). Win, who is William and Frances' eighth granddaughter, also, in her 'spare time', wrote Beside the Bullock Track: Quambatook 1894-1984 (Cambridge Press, Bendigo, 1984) the research for which, her son Andrew once told her, was no less than he had done for his PhD thesis. Win's first two books are invaluable Hickmott family resources which, among other things, inform us that the old couple had no less than sixteen children between 1911 and 1937. Two of these, Donald Henry Hickmott (1927-33) and Edward Lesley Hickmott (1935-39), died young. Their remaining fourteen children all grew to adulthood, married and, between them, presented their beloved parents with a total of 65 grandchildren. At the time of Win's second Hickmott publication, the number of William and Frances' great grandchildren stood at 168 where many of these were also married and had children and grandchildren of their own. The Hickmott-Free bloodline was continuing to grow.

What follows below is less a detailed account of William and Frances' children and descendants as an outline and overview of the extended Hickmott family. The tale encompasses a few statistics and snippets of information, a selection of memories and anecdotes, and accompanying photographs (more photographs of the old couple's children can be seen by clicking here). Family researchers and others interested in acquiring a more comprehensive picture of the Hickmott diaspora could do worse than get hold of Win Noblet's books or consult them in their local library.

hickmott girls in wa

Taken at Perth during the family's trip to Western Australia in 1918 to visit William's
parents and siblings there, this photos shows, at the rear (L/R): Grace and Gladys
and, in the front: Elsie, Muriel ('Judy') and Florence ('Floss').

Not long after Gladys was born, William and Frances packed up their meagre possessions and travelled in horse-drawn wagons from Lalbert to Wornack near Ouyen where they camped with William's cousin, Al Smith, while waiting for news of being granted their own property. As the account of their life in Win Noblet's The Hickmott Story describes: 'Muriel Edith the couple's third daughter was born at this site. A bush nursing sister was working in the area at the time, an elderly Mrs McLean. Bill contacted the sister and realising the birth was imminent took the little girls Grace and Gladys from the hut but within hearing distance. When the nurse called out to Bill, he rushed in very excited carrying a daughter under each arm to receive the joyful news that they now had a third daughter' (p. 43).
perce and gladys blake bert and grace dean

William and Frances' two eldest daughters, Grace Frances (1911-2003) and Gladys Elizabeth Hickmott (1912-98), were married
in a joint wedding held in Ouyen on 29 June 1931. Shown on the left is Gladys and her husband Percy William Blake (1908-92)
who lived most of their married lives at Horsham and had five children: Walter, Florence, Coral, Ruth and Frank Blake.
Grace married Herbert Edward Dean (1907-87). They spent their married lives in the Ouyen district and had ten children:
Alan, Verna, Ivy, Raymond, Win, Nita, Barry, Ken, Glennis and Reg Dean.

After returning from their stay in Western Australia, Frances announced that her and William's three eldest girls - Grace, aged seven years, Gladys (6) and Judy (5) - had to begin primary school. 'Bill walked his three little daughters to Borongie North, introduced them to Mr Miles the teacher and promptly returned home. It was a memorable day for the shy little girls, never having been without their parents, were faced with a new and frightening situation, naturally they were the object of fascination by the other pupils. The girls spent a good deal of the first day in tears. It was too much for little Judy, she crept out of the classroom and escaped the trauma to sob her heart out under the school. The three mile journey home was almost as frightening as the dreaded classroom, whichever way they turned the scrub and sand hills looked the same. By some small miracle their bush knowledge pointed them in the right direction and the trio eventually saw the welcome sight of the little homestead in the distance, and mother eager to hear of their days happenings' (The Hickmott Story, p. 46).

Once they had adjusted to being at school the Hickmott children enjoyed the long and meandering walk to and from Borongie North and later Kiamal. They especially 'appreciated the beautiful sounds of many birds. The meadow larks soaring right up to the sky. The brilliant dazzling red of little red breasted robins in the cold harshness of winter when the earth seems to sleep. The glory of spring, wild flowers, and tiny little blue wrens such a delicate whisper of life. Occasionally a fox would cross the track or a snake quietly basking be awakened to slither dangerously close, and many types of lizards. There was always a story for Miss about the many incidents involved on those treks to school' (The Hickmott Story, p. 50).

dean family members

From Roger Dean's family tree on Ancestry, this photo, probably taken in around 1950, is of Grace and Bert Dean's eight eldest children.
Standing (L/R): Verna, Alan, Ivy and Winnifred ('Win') Dean. In the front: Raymond, Ken, Nita and Barry Dean.

'I can clearly recall our Mother, Grace Dean, referring to the order of her brood of ten to some gaping mouthed listener, that her children consisted of: 1 boy, 2 girls, 1 boy, 2 girls, 2 boys, a girl and a boy. The listener's eyes had glazed over by the end of the recital, in disbelief probably. In 1946, being left handed was considered a definite encumbrance [to commencing school] Thus every effort was necessary to overcome the hindrance. Down would come the teacher's cane on the unsuspecting left hander. My brother Raymond in the opposite desk became my saviour by alerting me to teachers' silent approach, allowing me to quickly swap my pencil to my right hand' (Win Noblet in The Hickmott Story continued, pp. 39-40).

'As well as school, the Kiamal football Club was a huge thing in our lives. Every Saturday the whole family was ready for footy early. Bill (Munro) and I were among the first kids to act as Score Board attendants. Not sure how accurate we were as there were numerous distractions. Ralph's FJ Holden ute was backed up for a platform so we could reach the numbers, this was where Bill and I learned how to start a car with a silver coin. From score board attendants we graduated to boundary umpires. This was a huge promotion as we got paid, 5 bob (shillings/50 cents) I think, but big money then' (Barry Dean, The Hickmott Story continued, p. 60)

Rabbit trapping was a popular pastime from when we were big enough to be able to push the spring down, while someone else set the jaws over the tongue (bit of a dangerous practice). School holidays were the best time for trapping, sometimes good money, the best I remember was 7/6 a pair (or 75 cents new money). If the rabbit was only half grown, a good stretch and a few pebbles to add weight would get you the full price' (Ken Dean, The Hickmott Story continued, p. 65).

I was born to Gladys and Perc about 10 months after they lost everything in a house fire at Cook's farm near Kiamal. I can only just remember living at Iraak, before we moved down near Ouyen when I was about four. Dad built a couple of 'caravans' pulled by horses in which we lived while he and Walter sunk dams for the farmers. This lasted for about three years until Frank arrived which made us older kids very happy. Dad then bought our first car, a 1926 Chev, and we left the Mallee to move to the Wimmera near Mt Arapiles in 1951 [where] Dad was employed as a farm worker' (Ruth Ballinger nee Blake, in The Hickmott Story continued, p. 111).

In my younger years I spent the major part of my life with my father and his brother, George, helping on the farm with the sheep work and sundry other jobs that always needed doing. They worked such long hours that if I did not go with them I would not see dad much, always leaving early and arriving home late. They had a contract hay carting team that worked every summer and from the age of about 8 years (as soon as I could see over the dash) I drove the trucks in the paddock while they were loaded. It helped that the trucks had hand throttles so it did not matter that I could not reach the pedals, when it came to stopping when loaded, one of the loaders would jump off the back of the truck and stop it' (David Ballinger - eldest son of Wally and Ruth Ballinger nee Blake - in The Hickmott Story continued, p. 116).

Grace and Gladys' 15 children all married. On the Dean side, Alan to Helen Rose Tuena in 1956; Verna to Frank Hahnel in 1954; Ivy to Colin Maurice McLean; Raymond to Barbara Ann Warner in 1967; Win to Gordon Frederick Noblet in 1967; Nita to William Higgins in 1960; Barry to Lorraine Grayling in 1970; Ken to Dianna Brett in 1979; Glennis to Paul Geoffrey Sampson in 1966 and Reg to Barbara Ann Dean in 1979. In the case of the Blakes: Walter to Hilda Mabel Kellett in 1959; Florence to Ronald Keith Haeusler in 1961; Coral to George Ballinger in 1961; Ruth to Walter John Ballinger in 1961 and Frank to Dianne Tippell in 1975.

Between them, these two lines of the family produced 52 of William and Frances' great grandchildren and over 110 of their great great grandchildren (none of whom, of course, carry the name Hickmott). Like their respective parents and grandparents, the vast majority of these have chosen to continue to live in Victoria although, while many are domiciled in or near country towns, very few are farmers or live on working farms. Given that many of them live in the country, it is probably not surprising that the most common occupations among the grandchildren are teaching or an allied position within the schooling sector, followed by employment in local businesses, as a nurse or in a trade. The spread of occupations among the great grandchildren is much wider although the key occupations followed by their parents are still well represented. Quite a number live in Victoria's major cities, have tertiary qualifications and work in modern or even post-modern industries. Among them we find an aspiring novelist, marine and environmental engineers, a sonographer, medical and forensic scientists, graduates in the study of film and linguistics, a missionary, a defence contractor working in the aerospace industry, a regular soldier and a tattoo artist.

kiamal school 1946

Pupils at Kiamal Primary School in 1946. Rear row (L/R): Alan Dean, Joe Beaumont, Bob Lampard, June Hickmott, Betty Jardine,
Florence Blake, Verna Dean, Marion Lampard. Front: Ben Jardine, Rosemary Beaumont, Win Dean, Walter Compt, Ivy Dean,
Doug Beaumont, Ralph Hickmott, Don Lampard and Raymond Dean

judy and abe milkins nee hickmott wilma, florence and mavis hickmott

The photo on the left is of Muriel Edith ('Judy') Hickmott (1913-2006) and William Abner ('Abe') Milkins (1892-1972) at the time of their marriage at Ouyen
on 16 March 1936. The one on the the right was taken at the time of the marriage of Florence Evelyn ('Floss') Hickmott (1915- ) to
Dominic Joseph Doody at Ouyen on 10 June 1942. It shows Floss flanked by her two sisters, Wilma Jean (on her right) and Mavis Fanny Hickmott.

Prior to the birth of the next member of the growing Hickmott brood, 'Bill would be sure to have Laddie the buggy horse shut up at night in preparation for the trip to hospital. [Just prior to Mavis' birth in 1920, however, there] had been visitors until late evening which prevented Bill from going to the paddock for the horse to house it in the stable in case of emergency. Sure enough in the middle of the night Frances got the time to go signal Bill chased the horse round and round the paddock getting within arms reach when Laddie would kick up his heels and away he would go. Realising the horse's lack of cooperation Bill thought of the next door neighbour. Norm Tait was courting at the time, but hopefully he would be home. He ran three miles and breathed a sigh of relief when Norm answered his frantic knock. Fortunately Norm's horse was in the stable and he willingly gave his consent for Bill to borrow it for his journey of mercy. Being the placid people they are none of the Hickmott babies rushed into the world and Mavis was only too happy to take her time and wait until her mother was comfortably settled into hospital before her appearance on the scene' (The Hickmott Story, p. 48).

Keen to give their children the opportunity of a good education, Frances and Bill decided Judy and Florence should go to secondary school. 'In the beginning the girls rode Laddie double decking the five miles to school, following the highway. The Eldridge children also rode horses to school and there would be a race to see which horse was the fastest. When Laddie was needed on the farm the girls walked to school. In the winter it was dark when they left in the morning and very cold, there would be channels to cross and drenching crops. [In 1929 when Elsie started high school the girls would sometimes have to walk the two miles to the neighbouring Tait property, fetch their horse, Nell, and hitch her to the family's buggy. They would then] 'deliver the Tait's children to primary school and by the skin of their teeth make the line up before the bell. After school Mrs Tait would urgently need a list of requirements from the shops. It was against the rules to trot old Nell and the gig over the sand dunes although it was very tempting except that the Tait children would be sure to tell their mother. The whole experience needed outstanding patience which, when their brother Hutch joined the party, became a little overtaxed. Hutch thought a good box of the [horse's] ears would achieve miracles' (The Hickmott Story, p. 54).

In 1930 'seventeen horses now existed on the farm, two cows, two heiphers, a short horn bull calf and two pigs, sheep and the fearful ram called Ben. Everyone was afraid of Ben and Frances was often caught in a paddock on her way to pick stumps and Ben would charge. Knowing that he had the children bluffed Ben never missed an opportunity to go after the screaming skeltering children' (The Hickmott Story, p. 62).

'I was born at Horsham in 1947 the eldest child of Hutch and Muriel Hickmott. I have wonderful memories of a very happy childhood, growing up on the farm at Clear Lake with my two sisters and two brothers. We couldn't have asked for better parents, a mother with a great sense of humour [and a fine contralto singing voice] and a Dad whose family meant everything to him. Dad was very proud of his family and would do anything for us, or anyone else who was in need. I remember him as being hard working and honest' (Kaye Hedt nee Hickmott in The Hickmott Story continued, p. 165).

'Mavis may have lived in Maryborough [in Victoria] for more than sixty years, however, she never liked to miss the chance to visit her family in Ouyen, a place she felt such a connection. It was apparent to all that Ouyen and the old homestead held special memories for her. Looking back at photos of Mavis it is very apparent that she was a very elegant young woman. She loved going to dances, which could have been in a town anywhere from Ouyen to Timor. It was at one of these dances that Mavis met her long time beau, Percy (Wadey) Wade. Mavis and Wadey were partners for over fifty years, until he passed away on 7 Novemebr 2005. [Mavis lived alone after that] walking from her home in Newtown Street down to High Street, stopping to chat to all the familiar faces along the way. Mavis began a weekly ritual of lunch at Sue's Kitchen and then a movie at the local theatre' (Mavis' granddaughter, Kim McClurkin in The Hickmott Story continued, pp. 179-80).

The next five children of William and Frances - Judy, Floss, Elsie, Hutch and Mavis - have together added a further half century of great grandchildren to the old couple's tally. To date, this cohort have produced some 40 fewer great great grandchildren than the descendants of Grace and Gladys but, given they are probably on average younger in age, this difference is likely to be reduced over time. Importantly, perhaps, this second cohort of great grandchildren includes a number of Hickmotts who will help keep the name alive into the future. The distribution of the second cohort is as follows: 1) Judy and Abe MIlkins had three children, two of whom married: Jennifer to Helmet Mortze, a fitter and turner by trade, and Marion to a Casterton farmer and Carlton football player, John Gill. Each couple had two children. 2) Five of Floss and Dominic Doody's six children married: Brian to Valerie Ahon in 1976; Janice to Robert Willian Collins in 1968; John to Jenny Davis in 1975, Eileen to Howard Flanner in 1976 and Gerardine to Alan Geoffrey Smith in 1979. They had fifteen children and twenty plus grandchildren between them. 3) Elsie's three married children - Graeme, Daryl and Noel - have provided Elsie and Laurie Cheeseman with seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren to date. 4) The Hickmott girls' beloved younger brother, Hutch, and his wife Muriel had five children who have given them 14 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren we are aware of. 5) And four of Mavis' five children have married and between them have eleven children and 14 grandchildren.

As in the case of Grace and Gladys' descendants, very few of this second cohort of William and Frances' great grandchildren live and work on the land. While the majority live in Victoria a not insignificant proportion are located in other states (largely NSW and South Australia). Those who work exhibit a similar widespread, eclectic and impressive range of occupations and educational achievements. Included in their midst are a number of electrical engineers and technicians, people who have tertiary qualifications in community planning, criminal and community justice, journalism, pharmaceutical science, psychology and information technology. There are also teachers, nurses, fashion and graphic designers, artists, community workers and a former AFL player and current assistant coach at the West Coast Eagles.

kiamal football team 1939

Kiamal Football Team, 1939 Premiers. Rear row (L/R): Val Pearson. Bert Emmerson, Gus Munro, Len Kent, Jack Marshman, Keith Jardine,
Murdie Munro, Laurence Ross and Forty Hickmott. Centre row: Stuart Munro, Jack Munro, Auther Hickmott (Best and Fairest),
Bob Dean, Stan Jardine, Bill Marshman. Sitting: Stan Kay, Bert Sporn and Mac Munro.

laurie and elsie cheeseman murdie and wilma munro

The photo on the left is of Elsie May Hickmott (1917-2015) and Laurence Alfred Cheeseman (1915-1982) at
their wedding at Ouyen on 25 October 1943. The one on the the right is of Wilma Jean Hickmott and
Archibald Murdoch Munro (1919-87) at their wedding at Ouyen on 5 October 1942.

'Often visitors would stay the night after a late game of cards. Other times guests would just chat or listen to the gramophone. There was always a hooky board and that was popular, or singing, not always tuneful but hearty voices who enjoyed sounding forth. At parties singing was the main entertainment and reciting. Schools requested learning poetry as part of the english course and poems like "Clancy" and "Lost" were as well known as the alphabet and recited' (The Hickmott Story, p. 63).

'Life as a Kia kid was a pretty healthy, happy easy going one. The usual country kid bird nesting, rabbit trapping and raising poultry and pigeons. Most of the mates I had while growing up were also cousins. These included Paul Hickmott, Rodney Smith, Reg Dean and Geoff Doody. It was great having older brothers as I was able to hang out with them and their mates (many of them cousins) shooting, spotlighting and messing around with old cars. I have fond memories of helping Pat Lonergan collect young galahs from the hollows and sell them to pet shops. --- I have a memory of walking into Grandma's kitchen at the farm at Kia with five to six sisters and sisters-in-law all talking at once. The funny thing is, they all seemed to be taking in what the others were saying. The common trait with the Hickmott girls seemed to be that material possessions weren't that important and family was the main thing. The Hickmott boys were all pretty easy going types, happy to pass the time of day with anyone. All of them very much like their father; a great man' (Keith Munro, in The Hickmott Story continued, pp. 190 and 193.

'I have fond memories of spending many a holiday camping and fishing with cousins and friends, but my favourite ones were when we would head down to the beach at Port Arlington. Although my mother got sick of the song "Rubber Ball" being played constantly at the local carnival, the song will always take me back to those happier times, before my mother fell ill [Dianne's mother, Josephine Agnes ('Joyce') Hickmott nee Harrington died of a brain tumour in 1963. During her long illness and after her death, Forty and Joyce's children lived with and were looked after by relatives.] We stayed with Colin and Ivy McLean (my God-Mother), Uncle Johnny and Aunty Betty, Aunty June and Uncle Lewie McDougall and Uncle Ralph and Aunty Valda, who had only been married six short months when they offered to take Christine and I in. The love and care we received will never be forgotten and always appreciated' (Dianne Taylor nee Hickmott in The Hickmott Story continued, p. 209).

'Many trips were made back and forth to Kiamal and Ouyen over the years and not being a worldly traveller, these were our annual holidays. The kids loved going to grandpa's almost as much as I did. Discovering all the hidden treasures, climbing on the machinery, chasing sheep and riding in the back of the ute and taking turns on the motor bike around the farm was the greatest of all. Whenever I was asked what time I was leaving for home, my answer was always, about lunch time. This was when father looked at me with those sparkling blue eyes and a sheepish smile, as we both knew I would drag my feet to the very last possible minute and we would still be sitting at the lunch table chatting until about four o'clock. Spending time with my dad, my hero (the wind beneath my wings) was the best' (Christine Hart formerly Hyatt nee Hickmott in The Hickmott Story continued, p. 216).

ginge and lorraine hickmott wedding

Photo taken at the wedding of Francis Allan ('Ginge') Hickmott (1931- ) and Lorraine Doherty at Ouyen on 18 May 1954.
From L/R: Wilfred Samuel ('Forty') Hickmott, Ivy Dean, Ginge and Lorraine, John Owen Hickmott and June Flavel Hickmott.

hickmott brothers c1950

Taken probably in the early 1950s, this photo shows, from L/R: Hutch, Forty, Ralph, John and Ginge Hickmott.

'In his early retirement Bill would never accept the pension being of proud independent nature he found it impossible to apply for what he believed to be a "hand out". The boys made sure their parents were well catered for financially though and each harvest the profit from the first thousand bags of wheat was paid into Bill and Frances' account. If there were any other requirements or comforts needed by the older couple their sons provided those needs as well, paying larger repair bills and for extra necessities' (The Hickmott Story, p. 81).

'A typical winter week at this time [the 1960s] would include a school bus ride morning and night --- [When it picked us up the bus] already contained the Barnes family and Georgie Coleman. Next to be picked up after us were Dianne, Christine, Ronnie and Stephen Hickmott, then the bus trundled up to the Deans before really filling up with Hickmotts, Munros, Jardines and Dixons at the Kia Store, then picking up the Pearsons and Jardines on the smooth bitumen run into Ouyen. Thursday night was always football/netball training. Friday was shopping day (we would nearly always see Grandma and Grandad), Saturday (day and night) revolved around the Kia Footy Club especially if it was a home game and there was a dance at Kia, and on Sundays, there was always someone visiting for lunch' (Heather McDougall in The Hickmott Story continued, pp. 277-8).

'A lot of the Hickmott family speak slowly. The famous hesitant type of speech is known as the "Hickmott Drawl". When we are often ragged about our characteristic, Glennis of Finley says, "You should hear my sister Win, she drawls worse than I do", and Win says, "But my Uncle Ginge takes much longer to tell a story than I do". Ginge probably says he talks faster than June and so it goes. I wasn't too flattered one day, when told by my neighbour that by the time I told my kids to "Get off the railway line", the train would have ran over them' (Win Noblet in The Hickmott Story, p. 210).

The last seven of William and Frances' children - Wilma, Forty, Lorna, John, Ginge, June and Ralph - were responsible for 28 of the old couples' 65 grand children, more than 63 of their 166 great grandchildren and more than 50 of their 230 plus great great grandchildren (the last two figures may be higher as Win did not receive information from, or about, a few of her cousins and their descendants). As might be expected, this last cohort includes a higher number of farmers although the number itself remains quite small. A fair number in the cohort live away from Victoria (mainly in NSW with a few in Western Australia and one far away in San Francisco). Not everyone in this cohort had provided information about their or their descendants' education and occupations so the observed pattern may not fully reflect actual reality. With this in mind, the key vocations are again in the areas of teaching, nursing, local business and the trades. But again significant numbers, particularly but not only among William and Frances' great great grandchildren, have also undergone some form of tertiary education and are working, or have worked, well beyond where they were born and grew up. Their fields of study include teaching of course, as well as town planning, information technology, commerce, nursing, arts and librarianship (usually but not in every case at the University of Melbourne). Their occupations are, again, both widespread and impressive. Among this cohort is a former adviser to the South Australian Attorney General, a Clinical Nurse Specialist in the Thoracic Unit at Austin Hospital, a well-published writer of both fiction and poetry, a brace of IT specialists and a national equestrian coach.

If they were alive today, William and Frances would have scores more visitors dropping by for a cup of tea and a taste of Frances' famed scones. They would have many more tales to tell, listen to, marvel at and laugh about. It is likely they would be extremely proud (and perhaps surprised) by the sheer number of their descendants. They may have expressed some qualms about the steady and apparently inexorable decline in the proportion of descendants who bear the Hickmott name - just 34 of some 230 odd great great grand children - although numerically this is still almost twice the number of the old couple's grand children who were so named. I think it unlikely though for, although they both showed a clear pride in the Hickmott name and its place and standing in the community, it was less about the name of the family as the family of people who were, and had become, part of the clan that spread out from the small Mallee farmhouse. Thus Deans and McDougalls, Haeuslers and Hedts, Campisis and Zahras all became and prided themselves on also being Hickmotts. In this sense, the term Hickmott(s) is less titular as emblematic or totemic; someone whose values, experiences and understandings are congruent with or a reflection of the benchmark that was laid down by Frances and William all those years ago; a social and cultural imprint that continues to be celebrated and reinforced by a history of yarns and story telling including all those contained in Win Noblett's wonderful books.

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