CLARA ELLEN HALL - "Old Gran Treacy"

Her Colourful and Globetrotting Life


I have old gran Treacy to thank for becoming a member of the Port Phillip Pioneers Group in November 1985. It was while talking to a cousin about the family, that I discovered to my delight that old gran Treacy had arrived in the Port Phillip District in 1840, on board the vessel "Lord Goderich." She was nine years old and the youngest of seven children of Joseph Mayor Hall and Elizabeth Hall, nee Bramwell. She had three older brothers and two older sisters. Her parents, Joseph and Elizabeth Hall, had arrived in Melbourne well prepared for their new life in Victoria. Besides the many boxes of stores they brought, they had also come with a dray and a plough. Life was going to be very different out on the Plenty River, on the property they called 'Westbank'. The Hall family had left behind the built up area of Bristol, England, where the family lived in a comfortable two storey home, and where Joseph, a cabinet maker by trade, had built up a successful business.

It is thought the older members of Joseph's family persuaded him to move to Australia and try his luck in this new land. They had all heard about their Uncle George Abbot Hall who had gone to South Carolina, United States of America and with his partner had amassed a large fortune. Their company advertisement was listed in the town of Charleston as "Sales, General Imports and Slaves" ( Between 1759 and 1761 this partnership sold 1,670 slaves ).

[Clara Ellen Hall]

Very little is known about the early life of Clara Ellen, commonly known to my generation as "Old Gran Treacy", out on the 'Westbank' farm. It is thought that as her older siblings moved away from the farm, that she stayed on to help her elderly parents. Her mother died in 1850, and it was after her death that she and her father moved to St. Kilda. There they lived at 'Landsdown Terrace' in Dalgety Street.

While living in St. Kilda, Clara met an up and coming architect and civil engineer, Charles Robert Swyer who came from Manchester, Lancashire, England. Bishop Charles Perry, Melbourne's first Anglican bishop had engaged Charles Swyer as the Diocesan Architect and Charles with his brother-in-law Purchas were responsible for many of Melbourne's fine buildings. Christ Church, St. Kilda, the first church south of the River Yarra was one of these. In 1858 at the age of twenty-seven, she and Charles were married.

Charles and Clara had seven children, two were born in Melbourne and two in Dunedin, New Zealand where the family lived from 1863 to 1866, whilst Charles worked on a number of projects before moving back to Manchester, England. It was here that three more children were born. While in Manchester, Charles designed and built the very beautiful 'Barton's Arcade' in that city. This arcade is still standing today, having withstood the bombings during World War 2. In 1876, Clara's husband Charles died in their home just out of Manchester. So with her brood of seven children, Clara once more set sail and returned to Melbourne in 1877. Her eldest brother, Henry Hall, one of Melbourne's early chemists, had died in 1875 and in his will had left his baby sister Clara a shop in Bourke Street and a fine home in Grey Street, East Melbourne. This lovely old Victorian home stayed in the family until the early 1920's when it was sold and the land used to build the original first part of the Mercy Hospital. Clara and her family quickly settled back into life in Melbourne and in November 1882 Clara aged forty-nine remarried to a Richard Moore Treacy, who was a Sub-Collector of Customs from 1882 to 1887. The Treacy family were also early arrivals in Melbourne in 1841. It was also Richard's second marriage but unfortunately this marriage did not last very long. Clara, "Old Gran Treacy", saw out her later years in the old family home in East Melbourne, cared for by her youngest unmarried daughter, Clara Ellen Swyer. Old gran Treacy's greatest pleasure was to watch her son Charles Ernest Swyer playing football for Melbourne in the late 1870's. There, at the football ground, she must have been a complete menace to the surrounding spectators as she screamed and yelled, encouraging her son, "go on, kick it, kick it" whilst thumping her umbrella on the unsuspecting person in front of her.

Clara Ellen, "Old Gran Treacy", at the age of eighty-four years, died in her East Melbourne home in 1913 and was buried in the Boroondara Cemetery, Kew.

Contributed by Joan Glover ( PPPG Member No. 571 )


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