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Saturday, 25 March 2017

Edith Peard update

Edith Peard, a violin and piano teacher of Robb Street, Essendon, grew up in the north-east of Victoria. In search of the means by which Edith developed her musical abilities, I was able access recently a book called A History of Greta by Samuel Edward Ellis, whose family farm and post office were not far away from the Peard general store in Greta.  The following details have been extracted from Ellis's book, and the webpage about Edith's career has been duly updated.  You can see it on the Time Travellers website.

Part of the Parish Plan of Greta, included in A History of Greta, by S E Ellis, North Eastern Historical Society,
Kilmore. 1972. The Township of Hanson, the small dark area at the bottom of the plan later became the main Greta township.  The surveyed Township of Greta on the top left of the plan became known as Greta West.  The Kellys lived at Greta West, while the Peards lived at the new Greta.

A detail of the Greta Parish Plan above showing the original Township of Hanson in Section XIV. 
Samuel Edward Ellis, who wrote A History of Greta, was born in 1873 at Greta where his parents Thomas and Annie Ellis farmed and conducted the first Post Office.  Their farm can be seen on the first plan of Greta above,  to the south east of the township, just below Section IX. 

The first post office was at Mr Ellis' farm, about a mile and a half east of the township.  The mails were at first carried by horsemen to and from Oxley.  When the NE railway was completed in 1873 the mails were then taken to Glenrowan (Rowan's Gap).  In 1888 the post office was moved to the part of Greta called Hanson  Wm Peard had set up a store at this site on the Greta-Wangaratta road about ten years previously.  He sold his business to W Carmichael, who took over the post office. (Ellis, page 17)
 The centre of the parish of Greta kept shifting according to the activity in the parish and four areas were variously known as Greta.  The original surveyed township of Greta became Greta West, while the Township of Hanson became Greta.  There was also Hanson South and Greta South in the vicinity.   

The first school in the district was a board school at Hanson, which began in 1870.  A government school was established there in 1877.   When the Greta Post Office moved to Hanson to a site near the Hanson School in 1888, to avoid confusion the school was renamed Greta School, and the Greta School established in 1883 in the Greta Township, was named Greta West.

In 1882 a new Head Teacher arrived at the Greta School. Herbert Bennett Williamson had been born in Chiltern in 1860, so was 22 on taking up his post at Greta.   He had taken up his first post as a teacher in 1876 at the age of 16,  passing his matriculation examinations at the end of that year.  Samuel Ellis says of him:    
"Mr R C B McDonald was succeeded in 1882 by Mr H B Williamson - a fine teacher and an enthusiastic photographer  There were no short cuts in those days, no hand cameras or prepared reels of film.  The amateur had to expose his negative plates and develop them in a dark room as well as print and fix his photographs.  He was the first cyclist in the district and rode the iron tyred "boneshaker" as well as the tall "kangaroo" or "penny-farthing".  He was also a keen botanist, and at the time of his death was recognised throughout Australia as one of the leading botanists". (Ellis, p 18).

Greta School about 1880.  Samuel Ellis is arrowed at front left. The Peard children are probably all in this photo.
(Ellis, facing page 3).

It seems probable that it was Herbert Williamson who introduced Edith to the violin.  Edith was 13 when Williamson arrived at Greta.  "Mr Williamson, a lover of music as well of cycling and photography, was a teacher of the violin during his residence at Greta". (Ellis p 19.) 

In later years their daughter Kate Dawson, nee Peard, used to say that they knew the Kelly family in Greta, but had no time for them.  Kate Peard and Grace Kelly, a younger sister of Ned, were born in the same year, in 1866.  Peards arrived in Greta in about 1878, at which time the two  girls were aged about 12.  Did they cross paths at the Greta School?  There was no school at Greta West until 1883, so if the Kelly children did attend school, they would have had to walk or ride the four and a half miles to the Hanson/Greta township. Or did the Peards engage a governess to teach the children at home?