Irish Settlers | Great Australian Story

Irish Settlers

Irish Settlers



Mallee, Canada & Back


In 1911 Mr & Mrs Leary arrived in Melbourne from Ireland. They had married in London on the way. Ater a short stay in Melbourne during which time Mr Leary worked on the cable trams, they came to Ultima at the invitation of Mr Herbert Cuttle Snr. Ater working for a period with Cuttle's Mallee Stores the Learys "Selected" a government block of land at Boinka (pronounced bow-in-ka), a locality between Ouyen and the South Australian border.

The area they chose was approximately 600 acres and fully covered with mallee. Mr Leary, with some help, cut down and burned the whole area and sowed the first crop of wheat which failed owing to lack of rain. The Learys spent their first year in a tent; Ivan being born in that year. The second and third years were also drought years with no cash returns.

In that period they had moved into a bag hut; a skeleton of tree logs, over which a large tarpaulin made from wheat bags which had been split open and sewed together by Mrs Leary. All cooking had to done in the open, mainly in camp ovens. There was no water on the block so it had to be bought from the railway train guard weekly. The train also brought perishable food also sold from the train. As all stocks were sent from Bendigo in a steel truck most were spoilt during summer.

At the end of three years the family had to walk off their block from lack of money. They drove to Waitchie where Mr Leary resumed work for Cuttles. Within 2 years they came back to Ultima with C.M.S. A house was bought in the main street next to the original Post Office and opposite Livett's Bakery. Athol was born during 1919 and then in 1922 a decision was made to migrate to Canada. Mrs Leary had previously migrated to Canada with her brothers and sister but had left to go back to Ireland to marry Mr Leary. This was the main reason for the decision.

During their stay in Montreal Mr Leary worked in a trading post in the Rocky Mountains; he became dissatisfied with the conditions of work so returned to Australia, and back to Ultima with Cuttles in about 1923. In 1922 Ivan left Ultima to work,in the E. S. & A. Bank at Manangatang.

Athol at a later date worked for Mr R. Gundlach as a barber. Mr Leary was Secretary of the Ultima Masonic Lodge for many years. Mrs Leary often made dresses for her friends and children.

After 42 years they retired to Melbourne to be close to their family. Mr & Mrs Leary died in 1956 & 1960 respectively, and are buried together in Cheltenham Cemetery.

Athol Leary was killed in action in 1942 onboard H.M.A.S. Perth. Ivan now lives in Brighton, has two sons and seven grandchildren.