Johanna Alice (Lalla) Gill Harding is possibly the last surviving child of a Port Phillip Pioneer.

Lalla's father, John Alfred Harding was born on 7 February 1849 at Piddlehinton, Dorset, England, the only son of John Harding and his wife Sarah, nee George. John Alfred sailed with his parents, and Alice one of his two sisters, on the maiden voyage of the barque "Aberfoyle" which arrived in Melbourne on 15 November 1850. There were only six passengers on the voyage, the Harding family and two other gentlemen.

After a short stay with their Highett cousins at Richmond, the family proceeded to the Bellarine Peninsular. There, John Harding senior was to assist his cousin William Harding, brother of Elizabeth Phillips Austin of Barwon Park, in the management of the Carlyle Run. Subsequently the partnership was dissolved, but the family continued farming in the Queenscliff area until 1869-1870 when Lalla's father, John Alfred Harding was 21 years old. At that time John senior and his son were offered the position of overseers for the cattle run on Mathoura Island, also known as Gulpa Island, an area of 10,000 acres. Gulpa is now a State Forest.

The ardours of life in Australia in those days was a great shock to Sarah after life in a large Jacobean house in Piddlehinton. Sarah had been born in Newton, on the Isle of Wight and had conducted a girls school in Dorchester and was then governess to the Stephen Toghill Harding family at Stinsford, Dorset. Stephen and his wife were respectively the cousin and sister of John senior who became her husband.

An accident which happened to John senior early in 1885, when he was almost 75 years old, induced them to give up charge of Mathoura Island and they moved to land at Boxleigh, and land they had acquired when part of Moira station was subdivided.

Sarah died in 1889 and John senior in 1891. They are buried in the Moama Cemetery. John Alfred and Alice continued farming the property until the early 1900's, when Boxleigh was sold and they retired to a small farm on the Murray near Moama, now known as Merool.

At St. Mary's Church, Kyneton on 21 October 1908, John Alfred married Helene (Lilly) Fagan of West Kyneton. Lilly had very many cousins in the Echuca district related through her mother, the former Johanna Ryan. Johanna had several sisters and a couple of brothers who settled in the Echuca district. Lilly had been a regular visitor to her Echuca cousins, the Nolan, Kelly and Ryan families, before meeting her future husband John Alfred Harding through some of these cousins. Lilly had been born on 6 November 1868 and her daughter Johanna Alice was born on 7 November 1909. She had one sister, Mary Lillian ( 1913 - 1966 ) who had married Dr. Maxwell Biggins in Echuca in 1938.

Lalla married Virgil B. Gill at St. Mary's Church, Echuca on 30 June 1934. Virgil died on 20 June 1963, three months after his first grandchild was born. Virgil and Lalla had six children and Lalla has had eighteen grandchildren ( seventeen surviving ), and presently eleven great-granddaughters, and this year the first great-grandson arrived. Two more great-grandchildren are expected next year. Several of these children are now living in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Paris and Dublin. Lalla says "after three or four generations some of my family are going backwards" ( i.e. returning to the lands of their forefathers ).

Lalla sadly fell in June this year in her kitchen and has had to go into a care situation, but her family will be coming from near and far to celebrate her 100th birthday on 7 November 2009.

Contributed by Virgil H. Gill (PPPG Member No. 1327)

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