Stories and People

Barnard, Read and Edmund Stirling Families

Pioneer Memorial Service 2016

Royal Western Australian Historical Society's

Annual Pioneers Memorial Service

on Sunday 5 June 2016 at St Bartholomews Church, East Perth Cemeteries,

Commemorating Barnard, Read and Edmund Stirling Families

Citation by Ann and Rod Read

Welcome honoured guests, family and friends, my name is Rod Read and, like many of you here today, I am a direct descendant of George Read, my fourth great-grandfather.

George Read was a pioneer of the Swan River Colony and I am proud to tell you something of his story:

The year is 1829, not far from Gillingham Dorset in England on an estate owned by the Weld Family, lived George Read, with his wife Elizabeth Coward and their five children. About ten generations of the Reads had worked and lived there in the previous years.

One evening, George was called to a meeting with Squire Weld. England's high taxation, due to the Napoleonic Wars had financially embarrassed Weld and he could no longer employ farmers on his holdings. Weld suggested George should take his family to America, or alternatively Thomas Peel was looking for families to settle in the new Colony on the Swan River in Western Australia. An advertisement in The Times, described the Swan River Colony as a land of milk and honey, with abundant water, fertile soils and the opportunity to become landowners, something England would never offer. “Settlers will have no purchase money to pay for their lands ......” said one such advertisement in 1828. George decided to take the plunge.  So, in 1829, when preparations were being made for the founding of Perth, George was busy selling up some of his possessions and saying goodbye to family and friends. Packing what they could, George, his wife Elizabeth (Coward), sons Charles and Mark and daughters, Maria, Ethel and Emma, started on the hundred-mile journey to London.

On arrival at St Katharine Docks, they saw for the first time their transport to the new Colony, a wooden three-masted tea clipper of 427 tons, built twelve years earlier at Sunderland England, by Laing Shipyards. Her name was “Rockingham” and at only 109 ft long and 30 ft wide, not very big at all, about the size of our Endeavour. There were people everywhere, the goods and chattels of 170 people were being loaded as well as cattle, horses, pigs and barrels of this and that. There is a picture of this very scene featuring the Rockingham, painted by Ross Shardlow, hanging in the restaurant at The Gate Tavern at Cockburn. We are honoured to have Ross and his wife Barbara join us today.

The City of Rockingham named some of their streets after passengers of the Rockingham and most of you probably know that Read Street in Rockingham was named after the Read family.
On 7th January 1830, “Rockingham” cast off and slowly made her way down the mighty Thames River, heading for sea and the coast of Western Australia. Evening came, and as the ship had no Captain as yet, the Owner being in Court at that time, the Pilot in charge decided to anchor for the night. The wind was blowing quite steadily, and the anchor was lowered. Suddenly the anchor separated from the cable and the Rockingham was adrift. Blown for some miles, she finally ran aground on “Mouse Bank”. Adding to the worries of the Pilot, the cannon was jammed. Fortunately, one of the passengers, Mr Cox an experienced seaman, cleared the touch hole with a borrowed knitting needle and the cannon fired its distress signal many times. Eventually help arrived and the Rockingham was towed into Sheerness and tied up to an old hulk, where she stayed until a new anchor and steel cable could be brought from London. Captain Halliburton was appointed the Rockingham's new Captain and she proceeded out into open water, only to be struck by a fierce storm and after losing most of her rigging and sails slowly made her way to Falmouth on the south coast where she was laid up for some weeks being re-rigged with new yard arms and sails. Repairs to the hull were needed, where the cannons, which had gone overboard in the storm had punched holes in her side and copper sheathing was also added below the waterline. The trip was rather uneventful from then on and even with light winds, made good time around the Cape, completing the journey in just over four months.

The Rockingham arrived off the coast of Western Australia on 13 May 1830 and dropped anchor in Cockburn Sound the following day. A huge storm blew up that evening and the ship's anchor couldn't hold. With the capstan jammed, the crew were forced to cut the anchor cable by firing at it with their muskets throughout the night. By morning, the Rockingham was blown ashore, probably about where the BP oil refinery is located. The passengers were all landed safely onto the beach and they joined other settlers at Clarence Beach, also known as Peel Town, although sailors called it Canvas Town, due to the makeshift shelters the settlers had put up. After failed attempts to obtain help from Peel, having cleared and tilled land, no seeds were sent, no wages paid and nor was any fresh food supplied. After many months in camp at Clarence, and writing to Governor Stirling of their plight, George Read and his family, travelled to Perth.

George built the first four-roomed house in the colony in Mount Street. According to his grandson Horace Stirling, in his “Recollections of Early Perth”, it stood on the block later occupied by the residence of Mr. Ernest Lee-Steere. The materials for the clay walls, she-oak shingles and jarrah window frames, were brought from Mount Eliza, now Kings Park. In 1837, Lot 37 Mount Street was purchased by Mark Read from William Kernot Shenton for 35 pounds and the property stayed in the family. Charles Read, Mark's older brother purchased or was gifted Lot 37 from Mark, however in 1846 Charles gave it back to Mark “in consideration of brotherly love and ten pounds”. In his will, Mark left the western half of the property to his daughter Emma and the eastern half to his son Albert. George is said to have obtained a fig and olive tree from the Cape of Good Hope on their voyage and these were planted at his Mount Street home. Strangely, there appears to be both a fig and an olive tree in pictures of later buildings on this site, although we can't be sure they're the same ones!

In 1869 George gifted Location W19, on corner of Stirling and Wellington Streets, to his sons Charles and Mark in “consideration of the natural love and affection”. Later Mark passed this land onto his son Edmund William for the sum of 5 pounds. George and Elizabeth Read's children made successful lives in the new Swan River Colony, and I will briefly tell you something of their history. Their elder son Charles Read worked as a labourer, gardener, sawyer and carpenter, employing a ticket-of-leave man in 1854. I'm sure there was much to do in those days and his farming skills would have been very useful in the settlement. He lived his life in Mount Street where he died in 1875 and is buried here with his father George. Their eldest daughter Maria Read had been assisted ashore from the stricken Rockingham by a Mr. William Foster. They maintained their friendship and six years later they married. William and Maria had eight children and for a time, farmed in York. Later they became publicans of the Narrogin Inn in Armadale, which still exists today.

William Foster was murdered at the Narrogin Inn in 1874 by the convict cook in his employment a Mr John Gill, also known as John Goodall, who held a Conditional Pardon at the time. One day there was an argument between William Foster and Gill, after Gill complained that the meat he had eaten for lunch was of poor quality. William assured Gill it was the same meat he and his family had eaten that day and later Gill apologised and continued with his normal duties. After the evening meal, William found Gill had disappeared without finishing his usual evening chore of washing the dishes. Taking a lantern, William went to the stables looking for him and was shot in the right side. Gill had produced a musket and fatally wounded William Foster. Matilda, William and Maria's daughter heard the gunshot and on finding her father and realising medical help was some twenty miles away in Perth, ran on foot to their neighbour Mr Cronin's house. Although, elderly, he set off to Narrogin to get help. The young son of another neighbour, Mr Martin, went on horseback to Perth and returned with a Doctor Hora, but sadly they were too late, William Foster had died from severe blood loss. Gill was arrested, tried and met his ultimate fate on the gallows at Perth Gaol and is buried in the Felons Cemetery here at East Perth. Maria left the Narrogin Inn and returned to Perth. Maria died ten years later in 1884 and is buried here with her husband.

Daughter Ethel Read's story starts back on the farm in Dorset in 1827, as related by her son Horace Stirling in “The Golden West” in 1926 – 27. His article about the Swan River - “The Adventures of Ethel” - tells of a group of Gypsies who had camped on the Read land and tried to induce Ethel to leave her family to join the gypsies. When this failed, they asked to read Ethel's future with fortune-telling cards. On the night of her 8th birthday, they predicted that:

“The future of Ethel Read will be a remarkable one and full of incident. In less than two years she will take a long sea voyage to a far-off country, from which she will never return to her native land. She will marry a man with dark hair before she is 20 years old. She will have a large family, comprising more girls than boys. She will never want bread. No bone in her body will ever be broken; nor will any of her children ever have a broken bone.”

Ethel never returned to England. On her 18th birthday, she married a dark-haired journalist by the name of Edmund Stirling in the Bullrush church in Hay Street. Family history suggests that Edmund asked for his inheritance early and headed for Australia, arriving in Fremantle in 1830. It seems he changed his name from Starling to Stirling at some point.
In 1831 the colony's first printed newspaper, the Fremantle Observer, Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal, was published by Macfaull and W.K. Shenton, with Edmund Starling as reporter. Printed on a small hand-operated Ruthven Press in a flour mill in Fremantle, the ink was made from lamp-black and oil and the rollers dressed with treacle and glue. From Patricia Reynolds wonderful biography of Edmund Stirling, we understand this printing press is now in the W.A. Museum, Fremantle. Horace Stirling wrote, in his “Recollections of Early Perth” that Edmund went on to become the owner of the “Inquirer”, one of the first newspapers of the colony. Another newspaper the “Perth Gazette” was produced by Arthur Shenton and there was much rivalry between the two men. However, in 1870, united by their journalistic principles, they clashed with the authorities over articles printed in their respective newspapers. Edmund Stirling, his son John and Arthur Shenton were jailed, with only a joint apology securing their freedom.

Edmund was a respected member of society. A member of the Town Hall Trust, City Councilor and part-owner of the WA Telegraph Company, becoming responsible for the construction of the first telegraph line from Perth to Fremantle in 1869.

Ethel and Edmund had 11 children – 6 girls and 5 boys. Neither she nor any of her children ever experienced an injury to their limbs. Ethel lived to 68 after a long, useful and eventful life. She is buried here at East Perth with her husband.

Emma Read, George and Elizabeth's youngest daughter, married Henry Laroche Cole, who arrived on the “Marquis of Anglesea”. Henry, a seaman by trade, was known as “King Cole” and became a merchant in Perth. He built and owned the United Service Tavern, as well as two top-notch race-horses, Stringer and Wonder. He had shares in the first gold mine in WA at Armadale and was Chairman of the Town Trust and Perth Town Council. Henry died in Albany in 1866 but was returned to Perth to be laid to rest here at East Perth alongside his colleagues. Emma outlived her husband by 39 years and is buried with Henry.

Mark Read, George and Elizabeth's second son was 16 years old when he arrived with his parents in 1830. Mark is my 3rd great-grandfather. He married Ann Barnard, daughter of John Barnard and Elizabeth Challen, who had arrived on the “Lotus” in 1829 with Ann and their sons Edward, William and Charles.
John Barnard was a foreman in Latour's party of colonists at Leschenault and later moved to the York district, where he died in 1859. He was returned to Perth to be buried and shares his resting place with Charles Read and George Read.

Edward Barnard became the Publican of “The City Arms” hotel in the 1840's. Moving to Victoria and South Australia, he spent many years in New Zealand, eventually returning to the Vasse district. Edward died at 75 at his sister Ellen's residence in Mounts Bay Road and is buried here at East Perth.

William Barnard stayed in Perth, marrying Ann Lewis and was a gardener, boatman and storekeeper. He also qualified as a juror in 1860. William died at 53 and is also buried here at East Perth.
Charles Barnard sadly died as a young child in the new settlement.

Ellen Jane Barnard was born in Perth in 1834, after the family's arrival and became Mark Read's second wife. Mark Read bought a parcel of land on Mounts Bay Road at the foot of Mount Eliza and built a two-storey home for his wife Ann. They named it 'Elmsley' after Mark planted an elm tree on the property. They went on to have six children, although two died in infancy. Mark was a successful business man, operating a boating business on the Swan River and at Fremantle. He earned a living as a gardener and waterman, ending up with three lighters transporting passengers and cargo from Gage Roads and Garden Island. He owned many vessels, among them the Faith, Hampton and Gazelle. Tragically Ann died at the young age of 30 in 1855. Mark and Ann's sister Ellen Jane found comfort with each other after her death and later married, going on to have five more children. Mark and Ann are buried here at East Perth.  Mark, Ann and Ellen's children made significant contributions to the young settlement and there are many stories, but here are just some of them.

Charles Edward Read, my second great-grandfather, was a fine carpenter and worked on many buildings in Fremantle and Perth. He married Emily Howlett, daughter of Elizabeth and Charles Howlett, who operated one of 3 brick kilns at the clay pits near the Causeway, now known as Queens Gardens. Many of the bricks made here were used in the Perth Town Hall, the Cloisters, the Pensioner Barracks (now known as the Barracks Arch) and the beautiful Wesley Church. Work at the Howlett’s Brickfield was sometimes hazardous. It was reported that in 1880, one Leonard Weston, who had arrived on the Vimeira in 1865, as a convict also known as Newcastle Jack, died when 2 tons of clay fell on him.

Ellen Selina Read became rather prosperous and in 1895 contracted builders to construct the “Read Buildings”, now heritage listed on the corner of Hay and Milligan Streets in Perth.

Edmund William Read worked for the Victorian Harbour Master and later, on his return to Perth, worked for CY O'Connor as a dredge master, clearing away the rocks blocking Fremantle Harbour entrance and opening the harbour for larger ships. Edmund also operated his father's boats on the Swan River. Like the Rockingham, three of their vessels met a tragic end. Faith was dashed on the rocks at Fremantle, Gazelle was lost in Fremantle Harbour and Hampton was wrecked at the North-West Cape.

John Frederick Read was also a carpenter and served his apprenticeship working on the Perth Town Hall and Wesley Church, one of only a few 'Free' men to do so. I am told that on enquiring of one of the convicts working on the Town Hall, as to what brought him here, the man replied that he was here “to teach you people how to build”. This wonderful story was relayed to me by Patricia Treasure, who is John Frederick Read's grand-daughter and told to her by her father Frederick Mark Isaac Read, who himself was a stipendiary magistrate in Perth. John Frederick was an accomplished rifleman and ran a successful business in Guildford. Like many others who lived in Guildford, he was very interested in the welfare of Guildford and protecting its uniqueness. He was a Municipal Councilor for the area for over 20 years, as well as a Senior Justice of the Peace in the Swan District.

When still in her teens, Agnes Jane Read, daughter of Mark and Ellen, was appointed organist of the Perth Wesley Church, being the first girl to play a pedal organ in this state. Sir George Shenton was choirmaster at that time and Agnes continued with her work as organist until the time of her marriage to Joseph Wood Langsford. I was fortunate to be contacted recently by Joseph and Agnes' grandson, also Joseph, with information and a picture of Agnes. Residing in Claremont for over 40 years, the Langsford’s had 5 children and 13 grandchildren at the time of their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1938.
Among the passengers who also made the long journey on the Rockingham was James Read, his wife Ruth Hopkins and five children. Although his relationship to George Read is not clear, they were family and from the same town. James and Ruth were only fifteen when they were married in Dorset about 1815.

James set himself up as a market gardener on Garden Island, where he lived for almost 30 years, supplying vegetables to Fremantle and Perth. One night, about midnight in 1859, five prisoners escaped from a quarry gang at Fremantle. They fled to Melville Water where they stole a boat and headed for Garden Island. On arrival, they tied James and his employee John Grant to a tree, then headed for the house where Ruth and their young grandson were. Ransacking the house, they stole food, clothes, watches a spyglass, sextant, compass, guns, swords and a quantity of sovereigns. After cutting all the other boats adrift, they left taking James' whaleboat, and headed for the North-West Cape. Their plan was to make their way from there to the Malay Islands and freedom. Making it as far as Shark Bay, and pursued by the police, they took to the bush and the boat was confiscated by a Mr Caporn. Returning to their hidden bounty a few days later, an altercation ensued between them over the rations, a lack of food and water having become severe. One of the convicts, Stephen Lacey, died and was buried near their camp. After searching for about three weeks, the police located the men after a fire was spotted, and reduced to submission by starvation, the remaining escapees gave themselves up. Returned to Fremantle, John Williams was convicted of murder and all four were found guilty of being illegally at large and robbing with violence. Even though James had been severely beaten by them, James and Ruth made submissions for mercy. The Court agreed. Peter Campbell was spared jail time, as he had turned State's evidence and the remaining three were sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Here I must mention the convict connection of the Read family - George Little, Convict No 3864, my 2nd great-grandfather, without whom I would not be here. George was convicted of burglary and sentenced to 15 years in the Swan River Colony. Arriving on the 'William Hammond' in 1856, George got his ticket-of-leave in 1858 and a Conditional Pardon in 1861. In 1859 we find George Little working as a shoemaker in York. He met and married Matilda Fleming the daughter of a York farmer in 1860. After giving birth to a son Albert, Matilda tragically died. At some point George ran a bakery in Dongara, employing three fellow ticket-of-leave men. He later married Harriet Chuck of Jarrahdale, who is my second great-grandmother.
So, George Read, the man who started it all and is responsible for many of the folk here today, lies at rest, well-deserved I think, to the west of this Chapel, together with Charles his son and John Barnard.
George Read's wife Elizabeth Coward shares her final resting place just over near Bronte Street, with two of her Stirling great-grandchildren, Adelaide and Edmund, together with a Mr. William Hinton Campbell.

William Hinton Campbell was the captain of the first paddle-steamer on the Swan River - “Les Trois Amis” - and was likely well-known to the Read family, being involved with the boats plying the river at that time. William Hinton Campbell drowned in the river, while swimming to retrieve a dinghy.

Sadly, it wasn't until I was 60 years old that I found some of our ancestors final resting places. There were over 10,000 burials here, many of them untraceable due to lost and damaged records over the last century, but we have found 32 members of the Read family were buried here at East Perth Cemetery.

These were ordinary people, men and women, who contributed much to the Swan River Colony, through sheer hard work, enterprise and endurance of the many hardships. Starting with the arrival of George Read and his wife Elizabeth and their five children, by 1875 when George Read passed away, the Read clan numbered more than 65. They would be surprised and proud, I'm sure, to see so many of their descendants here today in this historic chapel.

We have with us today, the great-granddaughter of Mark Read and Ann Barnard – Patricia Treasure and the great-grandchildren of Mark Read and Ellen Barnard – Jocelyn Kardash, her sister Lyn, Howard Read and Joseph Langsford, together with great-great-grandchildren of Edmund Stirling and Ethel Read and many other descendants. We are so pleased you were all able to join us.
Thank you to Mrs Sally Anne Hasluck, Mrs Lennie McCall and the Royal W.A. Historical Society for giving me the opportunity to tell our family's story and to Lorraine Clarke and Cherie Strickland of Swan Genealogy for their valued support and assistance.

The Reverend Ted Doncaster, I understand, has held many services for Perth's pioneers in this wonderful St. Bartholomew’s Chapel and we sincerely thank him for conducting the service today.
I would also like to pay tribute to my sisters, Irene and Gwenda. They are my inspiration and did so much to help me in my research.
So many of you have contributed wonderful pieces of information and photos, for which I sincerely thank you. Together, we have been able to put together a family history that we are very proud of and I thank you all for joining with me to honour and pay tribute to these pioneers.

Battye Library, State Library of W.A.
Trove, National Library of Australia
Bi-Centennial Dictionary of West Australians, 1829 – 1888
Recollections of Early Perth, by Horace Stirling
The Golden West 1926-27, by Horace Stirling
The Ship Rockingham, by R.H. Shardlow
Jane Dodds 1788 – 1844, by Lilian Heal
Edmund Stirling, Swan River Colony Pioneer, by Patricia Reynolds
Steam Whistles on the Swan, by Rod Dickson
Collaborative family genealogy research by Rodney Read, Irene Sorensen, Gwenda Hopkins and Ann Read.

Brought to you by:

National Trust of Western Australia


Friends of the Battye Library (Inc)

  • East Perth Cemeteries

    Bronte St
    East Perth WA 6004

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