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The  History  of  Thomas  and  Harriet  Cleary
and their descendents

Thomas&Harriet Tom Nellie William Dick Lizzie Alf Bert Maggie Sam Tilda Lily

Richard & Kate Cleary

Richard and Kate Richard Cleary, often known as Dick, was a great one for spinning yarns and telling tall stories. In writing his story, it has been difficult to sort fact from fiction.

Richard was born in what is now the Waranga Basin. His official birthdate is the 22nd December 1887 although it is believed he was actually born on the 20th and the birth registered late. He was a bright student. Apparently the local school-master wanted to send him away for higher education, but young Richard was not interested.

Very little is known about his early life around Rushworth. He worked as a woodcutter and for local farmers. Probably he was also involved in the digging of the Waranga Goulburn Channel. It was during these early years that his knowledge and interest in horses first became evident as he helped his father break in horses.

On the 11th August, 1915, aged twenty-seven years and nine months, he joined the First Remount Unit of the Australian Imperial Force and in October 1915 embarked for Egypt and the Middle East. His brother, Bert, also served overseas at this time though in a different unit. They must have spent some time together as they had their photo taken on camels with the pyramids in the background. Richard was invalided home due to a knee injury, disembarking in September, 1916. The doctors wanted to amputate his leg but he would not give his permission. This was a good example of the Cleary determination as he lived until his eighty-nineth year with both legs intact. On the 27 October, 1916, he was discharged as medically unfit after four hundred and forty-four days service. (Three hundred and ten days service abroad.) He received a War Service Pension from this injury. On his discharge papers his description was; height-five feet nine inches, complexion-medium, eyes-blue, hair-brown.

His brother, Bert, had told him to lookup Kate Moran, a nice girl he had met waitressing in Horan's Flinders Street Tea Rooms. This he did and married her in April, 1917 at Saint Francis Church, Melbourne. She was the daughter of James and Honorah Moran of Avenel. Richard and Kate first lived at Capel Street, North Melbourne. While there, their first daughter, Mary Margaret (Molly) was born at the Women's Hospital. They moved to Cobden Street, North Melbourne where their next three children, Kathleen, James and Sheila were born. In 1924 they moved into a War Service Home in Ronald Street, North Essendon being among the first pioneers of the area. Here, their last two children Honorah and Michael were born.

When they moved to Ronald Street there were no facilities such as roads, water, sewerage, electricity or telephone. The area, only about seven miles out of Melbourne was like the bush. The family used to walk across the paddocks mushrooming, kite flying, eeling and fishing. Catching (and eating) ells was one of Richard's favourite pastimes - one eel was reputed to be five feet one and a half inches long. Until 1927 or 1928 he wore a leg brace but the leg did not seem to restrict his speed, as his children learned if they tried to run away from him.

Shortly after World War I, Richard commenced work with the Victorian Railways. He worked as an assistant fitter and turner and as such spent much time away from home repairing signal boxes all over Victoria. When he was home for weekends he often spent Saturdays at the Royal Hotel, Essendon having a drink and a bet on the horses, sixpence or a shilling each way. He continued his interest in the horses even when he could hardly read the form in the paper and was picking his horses by number. On Sundays he did the chores, mending shoes and chopping wood for the weeks he was away.

When his wife, Kate, was out playing euchre, her main recreation, Richard would entertain the children with stories, songs and card games. In later years he was a great baby-sitter and taught many of his grandchildren to play crib, his favorite card game. He also scared them with his own 'boogie man', Stringybark-Mick.

As Richard had a rail-way pass, he often took his children to the Mildura and Carwarp areas for holidays. The children have many happy memories of their holidays there where three Cleary brothers and a sister lived. Much of their time was spent fishing in the Murray or out at the Billabong.

As a result of an accident in 1936, he received compound fractures to his left leg (the same leg as injured in the war) and lost the little finger on his left hand to the first joint. The leg injury caused him to be off work for nine months. He retired early from the Railways due to a railway sleeper falling and splitting his leg open. this was in 1947 pr 1948. Later he was employed at the Army Surplus Depot, Broadmeadows where in 1949 a bag of tent-pegs fell on his arm and broke it. He retired from there in about 1952 but continued to do odd gardening jobs. In the early 1960's his elbow was broken and later in 1971 or 1972 he had a broken hip. Remarkably, after all these breakages, he continued to get around 'under his own steam', though in later years he was aided by a walking stick.

Richard's wife, Kate, died on the 6th February 1966. After this he continued to live in Ronald Street, North Essendon. For a few years Denis Flannery (his grandson) and family also lived there. When they built their own home Jim's daughter, Bernadette Jess, and her husband moved in. In the last few years of his life, Richard spent much of his time in the country in Avoca with either Jim or Michael. Finally he lived with Jim and Pat in Avoca before going to Melbourne for a cataract operation in January, 1976. This was not successful but though he could no longer see, he never lost his keen mind. He died on the 18th October 1976, two weeks after being transferred to a Glenroy Nursing Home and just two months before his eighty-ninth birthday.

Mary Margaret (Molly) was born prematurely at the Women's Hospital on the 22nd June 1918. She weighed four pounds and was not expected to live. When she came home from hospital she was wearing a cotton-wool coat and bonnet, which she had to wear for some time. Most of her first six years were spent living with her grandparents in Avenel. She can remember helping to bring in the cows on the horse, Old Bob. She started school in Avenel, going by bike with her Aunty Mag. From the age of seven she went to school at Saint Theresa's, Essendon.

In 1932 Molly went to work at Triumph's Shirt co. earning ten shillings a week. When she left there she was earning two pounds, eight shillings and sixpence a week. On the 22nd March 1940 she was married to George Evans at Saint Theresa's, Essenden. As the first suitor in the family, George was given a hard time with many practical jokes being played on him. One night while courting Molly, he came out to ride on his horse only to find that it had turned white. Richard, with a few helpers, had white-washed it. After that George took to a bike but that still did not escape the practical jokes.

After their marriage, Molly and George first lived at the Braybrook Hotel until their house in Deer Park was finished. Their first two children were born while they lived there. In August 1948 they move dot their present house in Drayton Street, Sunshine. Here their third child was born. George worked at Nobel Explosives in Deer Park for thirty-eight years retiring at the age of sixty-five. He returned to work there as a gardener for eleven years finishing in 1986.

Kathleen was born in the house in Cobden Street on the 26th May 1920. She was educated at Saint Teresa's School, Essendon, Reid's Business College and Saint Columba's College, Essendon, where she did her intermediate in 1936. On the 8th December 1937 she entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. She spent the next two years doing her Novitiate and professed as a Sister on the 6th January 1940. That year was spent at Kensington, the Australian Headquarters of the Congregation.

In 1941 she was transferred to Daceyville but returned to Kensington later that year. 1942 and 1943 were spent at the boys' boarding school at Bowral, N.S.W. In January 1944 she went to Corinda, Queensland where the Sisters had a girls' college and primary school. The college has since closed. From October 1944, the next four and a half years were spent working in the junior boys' boarding school at Toowoomba, Queensland where they had boys from age five to twelve. In June 1949, she was again appointed to Bowral but her stay there was short.

In March 1950 Kathleen (Sister Christopher) received her first mission Appointment to Nauru, Central Pacific. She spent the next four years there working with the boarders and visiting the people in their villages. As the result of a fall in which she sustained concussion, she had to leave the tropics for some time and returned to Australia in June 1954. For the next six months she remained at Kensington under medical supervision. Eighteen months were then spent in Corinda from January 1955 until she received her next mission appointment to Garden Point, Melville Island, Northern Territory. There she spent eight years working at the home for neglected children of mixed Aboriginal parentage run by the Sisters. From June 1964 until the end of 1966 she was stationed at the East Arm Leprosarium where the Sisters conducted a hospital, although it was controlled by the Northern Territory Health Department. Her next appointment, in 1966, was to the mission on Thursday Island, where they had a primary school for the children of both Thursday Island and Hammond Island. The latter used to come over to the school each day in a landing barge. She remained there until the end of 1967, when the Sisters of Mercy from Cairns took over the mission. In 1968 she was appointed to the mission in the Gilbert Islands (now Kiribati) where she remained for fourteen years, teaching in the upper-primary section of the school and two years, teaching in junior-secondary - years seven, eight and nine. The schools at Kiribati provide classes seven, eight and nine, based on a technical and domestic-science course for those children not able to attend secondary school. This latter course is classed as upper primary.

She spent most of 1982 back in Australia and apart from three months spent in Victoria the rest of the time was spent in N.S.W. and Queensland on furlough. In January 1983 she was appointed to her present position as teacher-librarian in the mission school at Daly River, Northern Territory.

James Thomas was born on the 18th June 1922 at home in Cobden Street. He was educated at Saint Theresa's, Essendon and Saint Joseph's Marist Brothers, East Brunswick, where he received his Merit Certificate. In 1936 he started working as an errand boy first at Beecham's Chemist, Spencer Street the at C.Voilaris' Grocers, Lonsdale Street. He then went to the Australian Glass Company, North Melbourne.

At seventeen he joined the Light Horse, 3rd Brigade Headquarters. In 1940 when he turned eighteen he joined the A.I.F. at Royal Park and was designated to the 2/8th Armoured Regiment, trained at Puckapunyal and then in N.S.W. and Queensland, before serving at Milne Bay. The unit was disbanded and Jim transferred to the 42nd Landing Craft Company, Bouganville and was discharged in April 1946.

After the war he did a rehabilitation course with the Victorian Railways as an electrical mechanic. He married Patricia Josephine Hogan of Essendon at Saint-Teresa's on the 6th January 1948. They first lived in Ascot Vale then moved to Essendon. They moved to Baringhap and Jim worked as electrical foreman at Cairn Curran Reservoir. He then set up his own electrical contracting business in Avoca in 1953. Their first four children were born at Saint Vincent's Hospital, East Melbourne and their next four in Maryborough.

As a result of an accident which happened on the 1st April 1965, Jim could only work part time for twelve months. In 1972, due to this injury, he was advised to get lighter work. From then until September 1986, when yhe retired, he worked at Footscray Electricity Supply. He boarded with Molly for some years returning home at weekends.

Sheila Anastasia was born on the 7th October 1923. She attended school at Saint Teresa's Essendon. she could run like a hare but because she was quite tiny and her younger sister, Nonie rather tall, the starters at the sports always gave her a good start. One time while on holidays at Carwarp, there was a sports picnic with different teams competing. As one of her cousins was sick, Dick suggested to his brother, Billie, that Sheila could take her place. When she won, she was scared stiff as she had to give her name as one of Dick's daughters. Another uncle, from a different tema, threatened to tell them the truth, but being a good sport eventually didn't.

Sheila worked in 1937 at Punton's Shoe Shop, Swanston Street, Melbourne. As the shops shut at 9pm and shoes had to be put away after that, it was often 11pm when she arrived home. Richard often used to meet her at the tram stop. One night when she arrived there she started to walk home on her own. When she heard footsteps behind her she took to her heels. The faster she ran the faster the footsteps came. She arrived home out of breath. Shortly afterwards her father came in, also out of breath. All he said was, 'Gee you can move.'

Later Sheila worked at Herbert Small's Photographers, a button factory making soldier's buttons, a knitting mill and then Bushell's Tea. Being under manpower, it was not possible to leave a job unless you joined the services or did something for your country. Sheila applied to go to the canneries at Shepparton. She was sent to Kyabram but did not stay and went back to Bushell's. She was married in 1943 and stayed at Bushell's until manpower allowed her to leave. The only valid reason to leave was being pregnant.

Sheila's husband, Terry Flannery, had been called up when he was eighteen as was army procedure then. He was discharged in 1944. Sheila and Terry have lived most of their lives in the Essendon area. In recent years they have moved to various different houses from Keilor to Gladstone Park and now live in Essendon close to where they started

Honorah Patricia (Nonie) was born on the 8th August 1925. She was educated at Saint Teresa's, Essendon, Saint Columbia's College and did a commercial course in 1940. She started work in November 1940 at Chas R. Forster, Manufacturing Jewellers, Lonsdale Street, went to Gaunt's Jewellers, Bourke Street for two years and the to A.W.A./Beam Wireless. Later this company and Cable and Wireless amalgamated to become Overseas Telecommunications (O.T.C.). There she met her future husband, Vernon White, who also worked for O.T.C.

The Cleary girls were lucky as their mother was a keen card-player. This meant that they were able to go out dancing at the early age of fifteen. The dance was in one part of the hall while the euchre was on in another room. Of course their mother waited to take them home. Nonie was always a keen dancer.

Nonie and Vern were married on the 3rd February 1951. One of their greatest achievements was the building of their own home. As it was just after the war, building materials were hard to get. They started before their marriage working at weekends. As their 'long range project' was by no means finished when they married, they first had a room and kitchen at Sheila's. Eventually they moved into their present home in Shaw Street, Niddrie in September 1952. It took five years to complete and in fact some of the hall cupboards are still not finished. When they first moved in there was no electricity as Vern had to put skirtings and architraves around b y Tilly Lantern before Michael could put switches on.

Nonie and Vern have three children. For eighteen years Vern worked at Lamson Engineering as a dictagraph mechanic spending one year as branch manager in Adelaide. After he retired they ran a general store at Gladstone Park and later a small milk bar in Hoffman's Road near their home.

Michael Joseph was born on the 27th May 1931. He attended Saint Teresa's, Essendon, Saint Joseph's Technical College, South Melbourne, Essendon Technical School and began a diploma in electrical engineering at Footscray Technical School. In September 1948 he began his electrical apprenticeship with W. Cumming and Co. and became an A grade electrical mechanic in 1953. During this time he worked on several large buildings, including renovations to Government House for the Queen's visit in 1954. His first year wage was thirty shillings a week.

Michael enjoyed playing sport and in fact played football in two competitions in Melbourne, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. In 1954 he went to work with his brother Jim in Avoca, where he worked and played football for two years. While there, in 1955, he met his future wife, Mary Baker, who was teaching at the local state school. He worked as an electrical mechanic in Nagambie and Euroa and in mid 1956 secured a job with D. Stalker of Colac as a foreman. As a house went with his job, Michael and Mary were married on the 8th September 1956 at Saint Brendan's Church, Shepparton, where they stayed for five months before moving again to Euroa. After two years he commenced work with the S.E.C. and for the first four years lived in a commission house.

Late in 1968, work was commenced on his own house in Esmond Street, Wangaratta with Michael doing the electrical wiring, kitchen cupboards, painting and much of the finishing off. Michael has always been a handy-man; making and renovating furniture and organizing the garden.

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© information Dated: 15 April 2001. Updated: 10 August 2008.