Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Mrs Gertrude Kilroy of the Motor Club Hotel, Cranbourne

At a hearing of the Dandenong Licensing Court held on March 17, 1914 Gertrude Emily Kilroy applied to have the license of the Motor Club Hotel, Cranbourne transferred from Julia O'Brien to herself. The application was granted (1).

The Motor Club Hotel was established in 1860s by Thomas and Eliza Gooch as the Mornington Hotel, There were various owners and licensees after the Goochs and on December 14 1911 the Dandenong Licensing Court approved an application for John Taylor to renew his license of the Hotel and also for the Hotel to be renamed the Motor Club Hotel (2). This name may have been related to the birth of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria in Tooradin or may have reflected the fact that Cranbourne was a popular destination for early motor car excursions. John Taylor still owned the hotel during the time Gertrude was the licensee (3).

The Mornington Hotel, when it was owned by Thomas and Eliza Gooch.
Image: The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson

Gertrude (also referred to as Emily or Emeline) was born in Parramatta in New South Wales in 1865 or 1869, to William and Emma (nee O'Toole) Tasker. Her father was a Military Officer (4). Gertrude married Nicholas Keam on August 24, 1887 in North Sydney. Sadly, for Gertrude, this was a disastrous marriage. About a year after they were married they moved to Victoria, to Bendigo, where they lived with Nicholas' father. Nicholas was out of work, so Emily took a position in a Hotel and some time after that he went away and she did not hear from him for seven years. Around mid 1902 Gertrude discovered that Nicholas was living with another woman, Annie Lewis, by whom he had a number of children. In February 1904, Gertrude instituted divorce proceedings. The Judge granted her the divorce and described Nicholas Keam as a cold blooded scoundrel (5).

Gertrude's (or Emie as she called herself) sentimental In Memoriam notice for her parents. 
Bendigo Advertiser January 29, 1892 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/89013671

On May 31, 1906 Gertrude married William John Kilroy - he was listed on the marriage certificate as a 35 year old commercial traveller, born in Maryborough, Victoria. The service was conducted at 24 Brunswick Street Fitzroy, by Albert James Abbott, a clergyman of the Free Christian Church (6). Gertrude's occupation was a housekeeper, she was 37 years old and their address was 396 Albert Street, East Melbourne (7). The couple had been together since at least 1903 as they are both in the Electoral Roll at 49 Clark Street, Prahran, and she was using the surname Kilroy (8).

In 1909 the couple were living in Bendigo and in April 1910, Gertrude took over the licence of the Camp Hotel, in Hargreaves Street in Bendigo, which she held until March 1912 (9). After Bendigo they moved to Oaklands and the Inverness Hotel at Oaklands Junction, where once again Gertrude was the licensee (10). They moved to Oaklands Junction to the Motor Club Hotel.

The first advertisement for Kilroy's Motor Club Hotel
Dandenong Advertiser, April 9, 1914 https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/8487694

Once in Cranbourne they joined in with the community life. In July 1914 a dinner to celebrate the achievements of Anthony Facey, Cranbourne Shire Secretary and later Shire Engineer (11). It was held at the Motor Club Hotel where a sumptuous poultry dinner was in waiting, prepared by the deft fingers of Mrs Kilroy. The table decorations were in giant violets and wattle blossom, and the effect of the purple and gold (the Royal colors) was very pleasing. The viands were excellent, and full justice was done to a five course dinner (12).

In June 1916 Mrs Kilroy's catering was praised again when she catered for a function given by the Cranbourne Turf Club - The tables were laden with edibles to satisfy the wishes of any epicure, and full justice was done to the inner man, which reflects great credit on Mrs Kilroy, licensee of the Motor Club hotel, who had charge of the catering (13).

Whilst in Cranbourne the Kilroys donated prizes for fund raisers, William was an official of the Cranbourne Turf Club; Gertrude played the piano at a Red Cross function and William sung a solo at a farewell function for local soldiers amongst other activities (14). They also carried out Extensive alterations and improvement are now in progress at the Motor Club hotel, Cranbourne, which when completed will add greatly to the appearance of the building and increase the comfort of the interior. Enterprise is displayed by the proprietress and Mr Kilroy, who have now a motor garage, at which the general public can hire cars (15).

There were two other significant contributions made by the Kilroys at Cranbourne. Firstly it was reported in the South Bourke and Mornington Journal in March 1917 that Mrs Kilroy, of the Motor Club hotel, Cranbourne, has at considerable expense obtained, a most unique collection of photos of local volunteers, which have been nicely arranged on the walls of the parlor of the hotel mentioned, and are well worth a visit of inspection. It is also an indication that Cranbourne has responded well to the call for volunteers (16). What an amazing collection of photographs they would have been, a lovely tribute to the local boys who enlisted and if only we could go back in time to see them.

Mrs Kilroy's Unique collection
South Bourke & Mornington Journal, March 22, 1917  https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/66191708

The other significant thing was that William enlisted to serve in the Army on May 11, 1916. He was 41 years old. The local paper reported that he has passed his initial examination. The late boniface of the Club is a good solid-looking man, and should stop a bullet with the best of them if he gets through his finals (17). It seems age was against him as he was discharged as being medically unfit on August 28, 1916 due to Rheumatoid Arthritis (18).

Part of William Kilroy's enlistment papers
National Archives of Australia www.naa.gov.au 
First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers, 1914-1920

In May 1918, four years after they arrived, the Kilroys left Cranbourne and the Motor Club Hotel for the Royal Mail Hotel in Whittlesea. They were not there long and they moved to the Racecourse Hotel in Keilor in October 1919. By 1921 they were at the Tatong Hotel and in September that year, Gertrude took over the licence of the Railway Hotel in Goorambat and April 1922, she took up the licence of the Redesdale Hotel and by August 1923 that licence was transferred (19). Five Hotels in five years, a very quick succession and Redesdale appears to have been their last Hotel. I wonder why they kept moving, but it seemed to be the pattern of their life after that,

In 1926 they were at 20 Beaconsfield Parade, St Kilda, where Mrs Kilroy rented out rooms and William was a traveller or salesman (20). They were innocently connected to a murder while they were there as one of Mrs Kilroy's boarders was charged with murder. He was 65 year old Henry Tacke, who was infatuated by 34 year old Rachel Currell, a married woman with one child. She had already complained to her husband about his stalking her. Tacke came around to their house at 4 Mary Street, St Kilda on December 15, 1925 fought with her husband and then shot her five times - he claimed he just fired down the passage way to frighten her. He then calmly walked home to Mrs Kilroy's as if nothing had happened. At his trial he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a mere seven years. Tacke died in gaol in September 1927 (21).

The Electoral Rolls list the Kilroys at two other addresses in St Kilda in the late 1920s - 241 Barkly Street and 114 Acland Street. In 1934 they were at 182 Williams Road in Toorak; 1936 at 165 Point Nepean Road in Carrum and 1937 at 127 Disraeli Street in Kew (22). William died May 15, 1939 at the age of 64, and their address listed in the death notice was 39 Alma Road, St Kilda. He was the son of William John and Margaret (nee Hughes) Kilroy and he had five sisters, Annie, Rose, Emily, Sarah and Mary and one brother, Thomas. He was also the devoted uncle of Madge, Bill and Bernie and one notice and one notice said he was loved by all and sadly missed (23)

After William died, the next I can trace of Gertrude is that she was at 30 Hodgkinson Street, Clifton Hill and in 1954 she was at St Josephs Home, Northcote (24). She died in April 1956, at the age of 91 and is buried with William in the Catholic section at the Fawkner Cemetery (25). I cannot find a death notice for Gertrude or a Will. Gertrude was a hard working woman, essentially supporting herself all her adult life as a housekeeper, hotel keeper and even after she retired from the Hotel business, she took in boarders to help make ends meet. Gertrude Emily Kilroy - enterprising, a sumptuous and expert caterer, sentimental and community minded.

Trove list - I have created a list of newspaper articles on Gertrude Kilroy, William Kilroy and their life and work, access it here.

(1) The Age, March 7, 1914, see here.
(2) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, December 21, 1911, see here.
(3) John Taylor was licensee of the Hotel in 1911 and in January 1912 had purchased the freehold of the Hotel. In May 1918, it was reported that William James Taylor had taken over the licence and the lease of the business from Gertrude Taylor. In May 1919, Sarah Kelly took over the licence from William Taylor. Members of the Kelly family also operated the Cranbourne Hotel, also in High Street. John Taylor is listed in the Cranbourne Shire Rate books as owning the Hotel until 1921/1922 Rate Year. In 1922/1923, Arthur Kelly is listed as the owner. I feel that William James Taylor is probably the son of John Taylor, but have no evidence.
(4) Information from her Marriage certificate to William Kilroy. Her mother is listed as Mary O'Toole on Gertrude's marriage certificate. Her marriage certificate said she (Gertrude) was 37 in 1906, hence born 1869. The Index to the Victorian Births, Deaths and Marriages says she was 91 when she died in 1956, hence born 1865. I cannot find a birth record in the New South Wales Births, Deaths and Marriages.
(5) Information about Gertrude's marriage and divorce comes from the reports of her Divorce hearing in Bendigo Independent, February 13, 1904, see here, Bendigo Advertiser, February 13, 1904, see here and The Age, February 13, 1904, see here.
(6) Albert James Abbott, a clergyman of the Free Christian Church - an interesting, slightly dodgy character. These two articles tell you something about him - The Age, December 1, 1892, see here and The Age November 9, 1909, see here
(7) I bought their Marriage certificate.
(8) Electoral Roll on Ancestry.com
(9) The Argus, April 5, 1910, see here.
(10) Cannot find a licence application for Gertrude for the Inverness Hotel at Oaklands Junction, but she is listed there in the 1913 Electoral Roll as a Licenced Victualler.
(11) Anthony Northey Facey - Cranbourne Shire Councillor 1876-1881; Cranbourne Shire Acting Secretary from 1884, Secretary from 1887 until 1909; Cranbourne Shire Clerk of Works 1884-1909 and Cranbourne Shire Engineer 1909-1912 (Information from Niel Gunson's The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (Cheshire, 1968)) Mr Facey died in 1916, aged 67, read his obituary in the South Bourke & Mornington Journal of August 12, 1915, here.
(12) Dandenong Advertiser, July 9, 1914, see here.
(13) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, June 15, 1916, see here.
(14) See my Trove list, here, for accounts.
(15) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, December 9, 1915, see here.
(16) South Bourke & Mornington Journal, March 22, 1917, see here.
(17) Dandenong Advertiser, May 4, 1916, see here. The term Boniface for a hotel keeper comes from Boniface, the innkeeper in The Beaux' Stratagem written in 1707, by George Farquhar.
(18) View William's file at the National Archives of Australia https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/ViewImage.aspx?B=7372476
(19) You can see all the advertisements for applications and transferences for the Hotel licences in my Trove list, here.
(20) I assume he was a traveller as that was his occupation in 1928 according to the Electoral Rolls.
(21) Report of Tacke's committal trial was in The Argus, January 9, 1926, see here. Report of his death was in The Argus, September 10, 1927, see here.
(22) Their addresses are from the Electoral Rolls on Ancestry.com
(23) Death notices in The Age, May 16, 1939, see here. The names of his parents come from the Victorian Index to Births, Deaths and Marriages.
(24) Electoral Rolls on Ancestry.com. St Josephs Home in Northcote was operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, read about it here https://heritage.darebinlibraries.vic.gov.au/article/342
(25) See footnote (4) regarding her date of birth. Fawkner Cemetery records https://www.gmct.com.au/our-locations/fawkner-memorial-park

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