Friday, 11 December 2009

Lord and Lady Casey and Edrington

We have spoken about Ancestry database in this blog before. One of my favourite databases in Ancestry is the Australian Electoral Rolls. Their coverage has now been extended, more years have been added and the coverage goes up to 1980. What sort of information can you get from the Rolls? They are useful to help track down ancestors if they have moved around a bit. Perhaps Great Uncle Bill may have left Victoria and moved to Western Australia after the Second World War, you may be able to trace his movements in the Electoral Rolls, and you could also find out if he has married by finding his wife listed at the same address.

Lord and Lady Casey on the front cover of the Bulletin magazine, November 2, 1968. 

Two of our more famous Casey Cardinia residents are Lord and Lady Casey of Edrington Berwick. Obviously much of their life is already on the public record, but we will see what we can discover about the Caseys in the Electoral Rolls and by using another of my favourite resources, the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Lord Casey, who was Governor General of Australia from September 1965 until April 1969,  was born just plain Richard Casey in 1890 (he wasn’t made a Life Peer, Baron Casey of Berwick and Westminister, until 1960) so we wouldn’t expect him on the Electoral Roll until around 1911 when he was 21. He was, however, then in England at Cambridge University and then spent 1914 until 1919 in the A.I.F. Casey was overseas again from 1924 until 1931 as Australia’s Liaison Officer for Prime Minister, Stanley Bruce. He married Ethel Marion Sumner Ryan (known as Maie) in London in 1926. In 1931 the Electoral Rolls list them at 91 Collins Street and his occupation is listed as an Engineer. At the end of 1931 he was elected as the Member of the House of Representatives for the seat of Corio and the Electoral roll in 1935 shows them at the Military Quarters in Duntroon in the A.C.T. His occupation is listed as M.H.R. Casey resigned from Parliament in 1940 and had a number of overseas postings and arrived back in Australia in 1946. We can then find them in the 1949 and 1954 Rolls at Edrington in Berwick, where his occupation is listed as a Politician, for he was now the member for La Trobe. Lady Casey’s occupation is listed in the Electoral Rolls as “home Duties” which seems a rather banal description for a woman who was an accomplished author, artist and historian, however this is just a reflection of the times.

Edrington in 1978.

If you don’t know Edrington, it is now the Community Centre for a Retirement Village, and it was built in 1906-07 by the West Australian pastoralist Samuel Peter McKay. Captain Robert Gardiner was the first European occupier of the land where Edrington is located and called the property Melville Park. It was sold to James Gibb and then to Samuel McKay. Edrington was designed by Rodney Alsop and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, where it is described as a two-storey red brick example of the English vernacular style with some reference to the Queen Anne style. It has also been described as being in the Arts and Crafts Style. Lady Casey and her brother, Colonel Rupert Ryan, inherited the property in 1934 from their aunt, Winifred Chirnside, who was the widow of Andrew Chirnside. The Chirnsides had purchased the property in 1912 and renamed it Edrington, after a family property in Scotland. Andrew and Winifred Chirnside died within three months of each other in 1934.

The Edrington garden in 1978. Lady Casey (centre) is pictured with two companions.

The house is surrounded by a Heritage Garden, part of which is shown above. Many of the trees were planted by James Gibb and during the early occupation of the Chirnsides. There is also a brick cottage on the site thought to have been built during the time of Captain Robert Gardiner.

Lady Casey outside the 1860s Cottage. T he photograph was taken in 1978.

Ancestry database is available, free, at all Casey Cardinia Libraries. The three black and white photographs are from a collection of Edrington photographs held in our Archive. The colour photograph is from the Bulletin magazine, dated November 2, 1968.

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