Monday, 5 March 2018

God's Triangle

A year or so ago we were contacted by Mr Ian Richardson who asked for our assistance to locate the grave of his aunt, Florence (Florrie) Cox.

Ian is an Australian former journalist who lives in London.  He was born in Wonthaggi and worked for a time at 3BO in Bendigo and Radio 3AW in Melbourne.  From there he and wife Rosemary travelled to London where he was offered a job in the new department of BBC World Services.  They now reside permanently in the UK.

It was 1997 and Ian was sorting photos with his mother when he came across a picture of her grandparents and their children.  There was one person in the photo Ian didn’t recognize. Ten years of sleuthing ensued , the result of which was Ian piecing together a story that anyone, journalist or otherwise would be intrigued by.

Ian has written a book entitled “God’s Triangle”.

When Florence "Florrie" Cox and the newly-ordained Baptist missionary, the Rev. Frank Paice, became engaged to be married in 1912, there was much joy in the two families and at the church they both attended in Melbourne, Australia. But it was in an age when society regarded discussion about sexual matters - even at their most basic - as a taboo. Hence, Frank and Florrie hit the marital rocks on their honeymoon in Bengal, India, when they discovered she had a very rare intersex condition, about which they knew nothing. So began the compelling saga of how the couple struggled to understand and cope with Florrie's condition, while fellow Baptist missionary Olga Johnston waited impatiently in the wings to snatch Frank away.

Why did the families and the church go to such lengths to hide what happened? And why did two Supreme Court judges in Melbourne order the divorce file to be sealed for all time? Ian Richardson, an Australian journalist who worked for many years for the BBC, was determined to learn the truth about his Great Aunt Florrie. God's Triangle is the result: a true story of revelation and betrayal.

I’m happy to report that we were able to locate Florence’s grave.  It was a particularly difficult grave to find, wedged between two rows and completely unmarked.  You can see in the photo below it runs between two rows - very unusual.

Ian was very appreciative of FOBKC's help in locating Florence's grave.  He returned to place a special plaque on the grave so that Florence can finally be recognized and given the acknowledgement and respect she deserves.

For more information or to purchase this fascination book go to

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Madge Connor

There has been quite a bit of publicity recently surrounding the 100th anniversary of women in the police force in Victoria, the poster girl being Boroondara Cemetery's very own Madge Connor. We have often feature Madge on our walks as she was and I think still is an inspirational woman.

Understandably the papers aren't able to publish her full story, so we'd like to do so here, acknowledging her groundbreaking appointment and her work in paving the way for women in the police force.   She was a true 'force' to be reckoned with. 

Image result for madge connor

Madge Irene Connor was born possibly on 14 November 1874 at Waterford, Ireland, only child of John Edward Howard McCarthy, master mariner, and his wife Mary, née Barron. By the time she retired, however, Madge had eight recorded variations of her name and four dates of birth. She claimed that after her father was lost at sea, when she was aged 2, she went with her grandmother and mother to England, then the United States of America where they stayed for two and a half years before moving to New Zealand. Her mother died when Madge was 7, leaving her upbringing to an aunt. Aged 16, Madge eloped to Australia. Life in Melbourne with her husband Edward Connor (O'Connor), an English-born labourer, and two children was difficult.

Edward died suddenly in 1916, and it is possible that the police constable informant for Edward's death registration brought Madge to the attention of detectives. She started working undercover for the Victoria Police later that year: by her account obtaining evidence against 'many subtle craft people and illegal bettors' and taking up residence in a boarding house with a hardened criminal and 'his woman' in order to obtain evidence against him.
This work stood her in good stead when, following campaigns by women's groups, the Victorian government appointed female police agents. Connor was the first of two, selected in July 1917, on half the pay of a policeman, with no powers of arrest or rights to a pension. They did not wear uniforms.  In 1922 she helped in undercover surveillance of a witness in the case against Colin Campbell Ross. Quickly accumulating commendations for her work, she was stationed at Russell Street and Fitzroy for most of her career. 

As early as 1920 Connor led deputations of female police and watch-house matrons to the chief secretary, arguing for an increase in their salaries. She described the often distasteful duties they had to undertake for seventeen shillings and sixpence per week. Successful in obtaining a small increase, Connor made further representations in 1923. 

Unrelenting in pursuit of equality, she wrote several reports, insisting that a 'stroke of the pen' would solve all problems.  Connor proved correct. On 12 November 1924 the by then four policewomen were sworn in, becoming the first women to obtain equal pay, nearly half a century ahead of women in other occupations in Australia. Then 5 ft 6 ins (167 cm) tall, with grey eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion, Connor gave her religion as Church of England. Because of a technicality in the police seniority system, she lost her place as 'senior in service', becoming 'junior in number'. She continued to bring petty criminals, fortune-tellers and bookmakers before the courts until she was forced to retire on 14 November 1929.

Ineligible for a police pension, having not completed the necessary fifteen years as a sworn officer, Connor operated as a private detective. She died on 12 October 1952 at St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, and after a Catholic service was buried in Boroondara Cemetery, Kew, survived by her daughters. 

Source:  Australian Dictionary of Biography

Monday, 24 April 2017



Athol McGregor Kirkwood is one of the many sons buried on foreign soil but remembered on their parents’ grave in Boroondara Cemetery.

Unit: 6th Australian Infantry Battalion
Date of death: 27 July 1915
Place of death: Gallipoli, Dardanelles, Turkey
Cause of death: Killed in action
Cemetery or memorial details: Shrapnel Valley Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula, Canakkale Province, Turkey

Group portrait of 14 unidentified soldiers and officers standing in a cemetery on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The central cross commemorates the men of C Company, 6th Battalion, who were killed in action. The grave on the right is that of 323 Lance Corporal Athol McGregor Kirkwood of Melbourne, Vic, who was killed in action on 27 July 1915 and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The officer standing directly behind the headstone, second from the right, is wearing epaulettes decorated with stripes.

Shrapnel Valley Cemetery is a cemetery from World War I and is the second largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in the former Anzac sector of the Gallipoli Peninsula after Lone Pine Cemetery.
Shrapnel Valley (sometimes called Shrapnel Gully) got its name in the early days after the landing. As the Turks realised that this had become the highway to the front their guns rained shrapnel shells down upon this area. These shells made a particular whistle before they burst showering those below with lethal pellets. It was said that as the shells could be heard before soldiers passing through the valley had the chance to take cover. Confronted with such danger, it was written that men became ‘fatalists’ and thought that a particular shell had a man’s name and number on it! – ‘Until that shell arrived, it was best to let others see them going proudly rather than flinching’.

Gallipoli was an eight-month campaign fought by Commonwealth and French forces against Ottoman Empire forces in an attempt to force the Ottoman Empire out of the war, which it was hoped would relieve the deadlock of the Western Front and to open a supply route between Russia and the Mediterranean through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.
8 May 1915
The Australian 2nd Brigade (Victoria) - 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions - attacked Turkish positions at Krithia in the British area at Helles. The attack was unsuccessful. Charles Bean wrote:

The stone houses of Krithia were still 2000 yards away, but in advancing 1000 yards the brigade, already reduced at Anzac to 2900 men, lost in one short hour another 1000.

Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Metal.

For conspicuous gallantry and ability on 8th May, 1915, during the operations North of Cape Helles (Dardanelles).  During an advance, when the Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers had been killed or wounded, Private Kirkwood assumed the command, taking charge of the men in his immediate neighbourhood, directing their fire and by his coolness and courage rendering invaluable assistance in steadying all ranks at a critical moment.  He led each advance in his section of the line and finally performed most valuable service in consolidating the position gained.

Source: London Gazette No. 8855
Date:  6 September 1915

Sunday, 17 July 2016

"A wonderfully fulfilling project"

These were the feelings expressed by the grandchildren of one of the cemetery's 'residents' recently.  The two girls, Suzanne and Sam, decided to clean up their grandparents' grave as a surprise for their mother.  They consulted with family friend, Helen Page (trustee and horticulturist) who encouraged them in their endeavours. 

We don't have any before photos, but here is the 'after' and you will agree that they have done a beautiful job.

This is something anyone who has a family grave that may currently be sprouting nothing but weeds can do.  It doesn't have to cost a lot of money - just some time and effort.  You may have noticed some planting that's been done near the High Street gate entrance in recent months.  If you haven't, it's worth a visit as Helen and her workers have created a very impressive entry with simple plantings.

We'll be updating this site in the weeks to come with some guidelines on how headstones can be safely cleaned and maintained.

Sunday, 21 February 2016


Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery

Published by the Friends of Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery

We are proud to announce that late last year we launched our new book, called "Leaving their mark" which documents, through short biographies, the lives of some of the movers and shakers who were instrumental in the making of Marvellous Melbourne.  Many were involved in moulding our society, and we honour their contribution and thank them for leaving their mark.

Copies of our book are available from:
  • The Boroondara (Kew) Cemetery office (during work hours)
  • Tim's Bookshop, High Street, Kew
  • Email to

Cost is $25.00 (plus $10 for postage)

If you are interested in the history of Melbourne then this book is invaluable.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Our first Working Bee

Earlier this year we were asked by Helen Page, a Trust member who is overseeing the revitalisation of the landscaping at the cemetery, if the Friends would be interested in creating a working bee group to assist the cemetery staff's work.   After a letter drop to many households in the streets surrounding the cemetery we welcomed four very enthusiastic "neighbours" who were joined by some equally enthusiastic FOBKC members and the first gardening working bee was off to a good start on Saturday, 2nd May. 
The working bees will be primarily focusing on removing large areas of ivy which has become very invasive.
For our first outing we attacked an area east of the rotunda under a large, 100-year old oak tree.
When we removed the ivy from here
We found this beautiful headstone 

But there was more ..
 and after several hours work this was the result


Well done to all involved.

Since then the under-canopy has been lifted and this result is outstanding.
The working bees take place on the first Saturday of the month, starting at 10:00 am and finishing up around 3:00 pm.  Volunteers are welcome to come and go at any time during that period.  Coffee, tea and biscuits are on hand for anyone who would like a break to sit back and admire the work they've done.  And let me tell you there are some very satisfied workers.  

As the location varies, call or email if you'd like to join us so that we can let you know where we will be on any given day.  (Call Pauline on 0417 278 950 or email

PS:  If you find a brand new pair of secateurs - they're mine.

Saturday, 25 April 2015


On Saturday, 18th April we joined with the Gallipoli and Beyond program to conduct a tour of the cemetery lead by Frances Barrett.  Frances selected memorials in the cemetery of fallen WW1 soldiers from the collection put together by Bill Pritchard, which is an amazingly detailed hand-written record of each and every one – down to the colour of their eyes, eyewitness accounts of their deaths, etc. 
A large group attended and we visited graves where there are memorials to the following :

Douglas Dunbar Jamieson
Captain, Douglas Dunbar Jamieson
Attached to 2nd Light Horse Field Ambulance
Enlisted 29 June 1915
Died 29 July 1918, aged 39 years, Egypt
Athol McGregor Kirkwood
Private Athol McGregor Kirkwood (rank at DoD Corporal)
6th Battalion “C” Company
Enlisted 17th August 1914 at age 19 years 4 months
Killed at Gallipoli on 27th July 1915
Arthur Eric CHESHIRE
Private Arthur Eric Cheshire – Service # 1079
29th Battalion "D" Company,
Enlisted on 15th July1915 aged  20 years 4 months,
Killed at Fromelles, France 19th July 1916
Desmond McMahon GAVAN DUFFY
Lieutenant Desmond McMahon Gavan Duffy
3rd Div Cyclist Battalion, moved to 20th Battalion
Enlisted 6th December 1915, aged 26 years 11 months
Killed at Flers, France  on 15th November 1916
Michael Francis STARR

Patrick Thomas STARR
Private Patrick James Starr     Service # 3465
8th Battalion  11th Reinforcements,
Enlisted 2nd August 1915 aged 20years 9 months,  
Killed at Passchendaele, Belgium   4th October 1917
Private Michael Francis Starr    Service # 3464
8th battalion 11th Reinforcements,
Enlisted 3rd August 1915  aged 25 years 10 months
Killed at Passchendaele, Belgium   4th October 1917
Colin Campbell SHARP

Frank Harold SHARP
Private Colin Campbell Sharp, (later Lance Corporal)
14th Battalion, 7th Reinforcements
Enlisted 10 December 1915
Killed 20 August 1916, aged 19 years, Pozieres, France.
Private Frank Harold Sharp
29th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements
Enlisted 22 February 1915
Killed 17 February 1917, aged 18 years
James Dixon ROWLANDS

Private James Dixon Rowlands – Service # 2208 (then Corporal)
24th Battalion 4th Reinforcements
Enlisted 14th July 1915 aged 20 years 6 months
Wounded in action 5th August 1916
Killed in action 5th October 1918 at Montbrehain, France
Alfred Ernest JOHNSTON

Private Reginald Johnston  Service # 7510
6th Battalion  25th Reinforcements,
Enlisted 15th June 1917 aged 32 years 4 months,
Killed at Strazelle, France, 7th June 1918
Private Alfred Ernest Johnston   Service #  721
9th Battalion "F" Company,
Enlisted 24th August 1914  aged 29 years 9 months,
Killed at Gallipoli, Turkey  25th April 1915
George William Percy KAY

Private George William Percy Kay
5th Battalion, 8th Reinforcements
Enlisted 21 May 1915
Killed 6 June 1918, near Hazebrouck, France
George Lush FINLAY

William Seymour FINLAY

2nd Lieutenant George Lush Finlay
5th Battalion
Enlisted 14th February 1915 aged 24 years 11 months. 
Died at 20th General Hospital Camiers 9th February 1919.
2nd Lieutenant William Seymour Finlay
24th Battalion “D” Coy
Enlisted 16th May 1915 aged 34 years 9 months
Killed in action at Gallipoli 29th November 1915
Leslie Stuart BURNISTON

Howard McCulloch BURNISTON
Private Leslie Stuart Burniston   Service # 2409
8th Light Horse Regiment  17th Reinforcements
Enlisted 8th February 1916 aged 31 years 2 months.
Died at Advance Dressing Station, Khuweiffel, Palestine 6th November 1917
Private Howard McCullock Burniston   Service # 5548.A
21st Battalion, 13th Reinforcements
Enlisted 8th May 1916  aged 31years 5 months.
Killed at Villers-Bretonneux, France  7th August 1918
Albert John WALKER
Signaler/Private Albert John Walker
8th Light Horse Regiment ‘D’
Enlisted 11 January 1915
Killed 16 October 1918, aged 23 years, 4th British General Hospital, France


The following poem was discovered – written by Sir Frank Gavan Duffy, Supreme Court Judge, to his son, Desmond McMahon Gavan Duffy.

 “How can I shut my ears to Honor’s call
I cannot stay, Dear Father, bid me go”
”Answer it then”, I said “And if you fall
God take you, and God help us in our woe.”
So you strode unfearing, proud, elate,
To quit the ordered quiet of your life
And share the solder’s harsh, uncertain fate,
Your eyes aflame with rapture for the strife.
And we who stayed behind foreboding ill,
Counted the cost, but put our fears aside
And set a halting but insistent will
To dream of meeting in some happier tide.
Or summon pleasant pictures from the past –
the smiling babe frank schoolboy, trusted friend,
…And now our foolish hopes and fears are cast
Into oblivion, for the dreaded end
Has come upon a battlefield in France.
Sleep, son, beneath the soldier’s rugged cross,
Your duty done, nor time nor evil chance
Can stain your name, or bring you sense of loss.
And we – we whisper while the hot tears run
Down our worn cheeks, “Dear Lord,
Thy will be done”.
Desmond Gavan Duffy was born on 13 December 1888. He was the brother of (Sir) Charles Gavan Duffy, who also served in the War and became a Supreme Court judge in 1933. Desmond studied at Riverview in Sydney, where he was prolific prize-winner, before completing his law degree at Melbourne University. He was a member of the Melbourne University Rifles.

Once admitted to practice in 1913, he was associate to his father, Sir Frank Gavan Duffy, a judge of the High Court, in Melbourne. He then moved to Sydney and was admitted to practice in New South Wales in May 1914 and set up as a barrister in Denman Chambers.

Desmond Gavan Duffy enlisted at the Sydney Town Hall in November 1915. He embarked with the 3rd Divisional Cyclists Battalion aboard the HMAT Demosthenes in May 1916. In October 1916, he became a 2nd lieutenant in 20th Australian Infantry Battalion. Gavan Duffy was killed on 15 November 1916, with two other men, when a shell landed on their tent at Carlton Camp, near Flers, in France. 
The 20th Battalion provided reinforcements for the attack near Flers between 14 and 16 November 1916, in conditions described as the worst ever encountered by the AIF and it was at this time that Gavan Duffy was killed.

It was very moving and we had a very appreciative group who enjoyed morning tea in the rotunda.  Not only were they treated to Frances' famous scones, but our new committee member, Liz McKenzie, provided Irish Tea Bread, still warm from the oven.  So, as promised, here is the recipe.


Irish Tea Bread


225 g raisins
225 g sultanas
225 g raisins
110 g candied peel cut into 5 ml pieces (I hardly ever add this..)
225 g Demerara sugar
275 g Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey or any other hot tea
110 g pecans
1 large egg at room temperature lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
450 g self-raising flour

2 x 450 g loaf tins lined with baking paper

Begin this the evening before by placing all the fruits, including the candied peel (if used), in a bowl, then dissolve the sugar in the hot tea, pour this over the fruits, cover the bowl and leave overnight so the fruits become plump and juicy.
The next day, pre-heat the oven to 170°C, then place the nuts on a baking sheet and pop them into the oven for 6-8 minutes (use a timer, as they burn easily). Then, when they're cool, roughly chop them. Next, add the beaten egg mixture to the bowl containing the fruits. Then sift in the flour, add the toasted nuts and give everything a really good mixing. Now divide the mixture between the prepared loaf tins and bake them in the centre of the oven for 1¼-1½ hours, until they feel springy in the centre. Then straight away loosen them with a palette knife and turn them out on to a wire rack to cool.