Friday, 4 September 2015

Reverend Alexander Duff (1824 to 1890)

The Reverend Alexander Duff played a large role in the early development of the Cranbourne area. He was born in Coagh in Northern Ireland in 1824 and obtained a Master of Arts from the University of Glasgow. He married Annie Tucker in Belfast when he was 29, around 1853, and they came to Australia soon after. Their eight children were all born in Victoria.


Alexander Duff. 
Photograph scanned from The Good Country:  Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.


According to Niel Gunson in his book The Good County: Cranbourne Shire Duff was appointed by the Presbyterian Church to Dandenong on June 26, 1855 and on September 20 he was ordained. The Duffs initially lived with Alexander Cameron and conducted services in his house until Scots Presbyterian Church was opened on May 27 1860. A manse was also built at the same time. Duff also preached at Berwick in the early days and as far south as the Bass River area. He visited parishioners on his horse, Dobbin.


The original Scots Presbyterian Church, opened 1860. Thus Church was replaced by the existing Scots Church in, I believe, 1953.

A Presbyterian School opened in Cranbourne on June 1, 1856. This school was located on the site where the Presbyterian Church stands,  the first teacher being James Henry, the next teacher was Archibald Thomson. In 1862, the Commons School Act was passed and the School became Cranbourne Common School, No. 144. The School was closed in 1878 and the students moved to a new School on the South Gippsland Highway (where the Elderly Citizens are now located). In 1969, the Cranbourne State School, No. 2068, moved to Russell Street location.


State Government Gazette  http://gazette.slv.vic.gov.au/

In October 1855 Alexander was appointed the Registrar of Births and Deaths for Cranbourne and Dandenong. The Reverend Duff also held evening classes for young men and women on 'arithmetic, physics, mathematics, English, Latin, Greek, French and German. He was obviously interested in intellectual pursuits but he also valued physical activity - Niel Gunson writes that he tried his hand at black smith work and that he experimented with ways to improve cheese making. He ploughed his own paddocks and, in 1858, the Mornington Farmers Society held their ploughing competitions on his farm.

Duff retired to his farm at Cardinia in 1888 and he died on December 22 1890 aged 65. He left his entire estate to 'my dear wife, Annie Duff'. The value of his Estate was personal property of 1312 pounds and real estate valued at 1574 pounds.



Extract from Rev Duff's will dated August 11, 1884.


Obituary from the South Bourke and Mornington Journal December 24, 1890.


As we mentioned before, Alexander married Annie Tucker in Belfast around 1853. He was the son of Thomas Duff and Ann McMorran.  They had eight children - Walter (1855 to 1925, married Eva Sharp); Annie Elizabeth (1857 to 1934. married John Gason) ; William Tucker (1859 to 1935, married Alice Hobart); Dora Robina (1861 to 1939, married Robert Gibb); Maggie (1864 to 1938, married James Lecky); Mary Clarissa (known  as Minnie, 1865 to ?., married Inglebert Gunnelson); Alexander (1869 to 1941, married Mary Irwin) and lastly Edward John Tucker, born and died 1877. Annie died November 24, 1905 aged 74. The three surviving sons farmed in the Cardinia area. Walter Duff, James Lecky and Robert Gibb were all Cranbourne Shire Councillors.  Mary and Inglebert Gunnelson lived in Garfield and two of their sons, Inglebert and Percy,  were killed in the First World War.

Alexander's brother, Robert (1827 to 1861) was also in Australia. He and his wife Margaret established the Cranbourne Hotel, around 1860. It was in High Street, where Greg Clydesdale Square is now and was demolished around the 1970s. Margaret was also a Duff, perhaps a cousin, and her father operated an Inn in Coagh, County Tyrone, the birthplace of Alexander and Robert. After Robert died, Margaret married Edward Tucker, who was born in America and operated a store in Cranbourne. Edward's brother William (born in Belfast)  was also in the area. What connection were they to Annie Tucker, the wife of the Reverend Duff?  Some sources say that she was the sister of Edward and William Tucker, however in the Early Settlers of the Casey Cardinia District their parents are listed as Edward Tucker and Elizabeth Moore and Annie's death certificate has her mother's maiden name as Phillips, so I am not sure.




 Cranbourne Hotel, established circa 1860, by Robert and Margaret Duff. 
Photograph scanned from The Good Country:  Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

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