Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Christopher Moody

Moody’s Inlet, which runs into Western Port Bay near Tooradin, and Moody Street in Koo-Wee-Rup are both named after Christopher Moody. Who was Christopher Moody?

Christopher Moody was born in Shepton Mallett in Somerset on February 7, 1833. He was the ninth child, out of fifteen of Austin Moody and his wife Jane (nee Perrett). His father is listed in the 1851 English Census as “a farmer of 180 acres employing 5 labourers” Thus, he had a middle class upbringing, however being the ninth child and fifth son, Christopher, like many younger sons, had to make his own way in the world and he and his younger brother, Charles, came to Australia. Another brother went to America. Four of his unmarried sisters, Elizabeth, Ann, Martha and Fanny, also made a life for themselves and in the 1860 Census they are listed as running a ‘Juvenile clothing shop’ in Frome in Somerset. Charles Moody died at Milford, in Pakenham on May 18, 1926, at the age of 91.

Christopher arrived in Australia in August 1854 on the Morning Star. He went to Commeralgyp Station at Rokewood, south of Ballarat to work and remained there until 1860 when he established the Barkley Flour Mills at Rokewood Junction. He married Jane Halbert Hyslop (1834-1885) in 1863. They had eight children Clara (1864-1906), John Austin (1865-1867), Isabella Mary (1868-1940), Edith (1869-1927), Jessie (1870-1960), Jane (b. & d.1872), Christopher John (1873-1943) and Celia (1874-1958). All the children were born at Rokewood. Christopher purchased 1,686 acres of the Great Swamp Run at the land sales held on March 25, 1875 for the amount of £2,451. Moody and the other land owners had to clear and drain their land.

Moody was elected to the Cranbourne Shire Council in 1884. His obituary in the Koo-Wee-Rup Sun of November 18, 1920 says that in all municipal matters, especially on roads, his sound and practical knowledge made his services of value. Moody was one of the strong personalities on the Council and Niel Gunson, in his book The Good Country, describes him as an astute councillor and man of inflexible principle. Moody was on the Council until he resigned in January 1894.

The family lived on their property called Invermead, on the South Gippsland Highway, east of the Inlets. The homestead had a dairy, workshops, slaughter house, poultry pens, pig sties and kitchen garden. Jane Moody died on December 8, 1885 at the age of 51, and is buried at Cranbourne cemetery.

In 1890, Moody owned the site of the Koo-Wee-Rup township and sub-divided the land between Rossiter Road and the Main Drain and Denham’s Road and the Highway. Very little of the land was sold due to the 1890s depression. The sub-division set out Moody, Gardner (called Koo-Wee-Rup Street by Moody), Henry (called Christopher Street by Moody) and Salmon Streets.

In his obituary Moody was described as a public spirited man who exercised influence for the advancement of the district. Moody donated the land for the Presbyterian Church and the Public Hall in Koo-Wee-Rup. He was Vice President of the Tooradin Mechanics’ Institute when it opened in 1882 and on the Tooradin State School Board.

Of Christopher and Jane Moody’s children it would appear that only one of them married – Jessie married Edward Percy Walker in 1898. Edward and his father operated the Tooradin store for a while and after his marriage, Edward had a store at Lang Lang and later at Dandenong. Jessie and Ted had seven children. Their five sons all enlisted in the Second World War. Their eldest son, Christopher, was the chief sub-editor and assistant editor of the Melbourne Sun when he enlisted. A report at the time of his death said that he preferred to fight as a Private rather than accept a commission as official broadcaster. He was killed fighting in Syria in June 1941.

Christopher Moody moved to his house, Shepton, in Rossiter Road in Koo-Wee-Rup when it was built in 1902. In his Will dated April 7 1910 Moody left this Shepton estate of about 386 acres, together with all the rest of his real estate to his son, Christopher. The residual of the Estate was to be sold and all divided into five equal shares for his son and daughters Isabella, Jessie and Celia. Edith was to receive the income from her share to support her, and if this was not enough then part of the principle. After Edith’s death the Will stated that the remaining part of her share was to be divided equally between the Melbourne, the Alfred, the Austin and St Vincent’s Hospitals. This suggests that she was unwell, even in 1910 when the Will was written. Christopher Moody died on November 17, 1920. A report in The Argus in January 1921 (reproduced below) said that his Estate was worth £51, 862 of which £3,910 was real estate and the £47,952 other assets. To put that in perspective in 1920 the average annual wage for men was £204 and for women was £99. The average annual wage today is about $50,000 so in today’s money his Will would be worth over $12 million - a tidy sum of money.

The Argus, Friday January 28, 1921. Page 6.

After Edith died on October 24, 1927 her share of the Estate was distributed to the four Hospitals. In 1927 this amounted to £7,200, and in 1929 another £1,147 was distributed. Christopher Moody is buried at Lang Lang, for some reason not at Cranbourne with his wife. The head stone also has the incorrect date on it and says he died in 1921. It seems a bit of a sad end for a man who contributed so much to the Community.

Photograph credit - The photo of Christopher Moody is from the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society Collection.

No comments: