A New Life at Ceres                                                   

John Hurley 1834-1915                                               Mary Margaret Quinn 1845-1917                        Paternal grandparents of Horace Leopold Hurley

John Hurley : from Devon to Ceres

John Hurley was born in the parish of Payhembury, near Honiton in Devon, England on the 24th November 1834 and baptized on 1st Feb 1835. He was the third child of farmers, Thomas Hurley and Elizabeth Bradley. He had two older sisters and one younger brother and one younger sister. His forbears all came from various parts of East Devon and were mostly farmers and agricultural labourers. John’s mother died in 1838 when John was almost 4 years old.

John grew up to be tall, dark and blue-eyed, and worked on his father’s property at Beer Farm which is about halfway between the villages of Payhembury and Broadhembury. The 1841 Census shows the family at Beer Farm: his father Thomas, unmarried aunt Susanna Hurley, older sisters Jane and Elizabeth, and two farm workers. In 1851 he is still there with his father and two older sisters, and in 1861 he is listed with his father and one sister.

                                                                                                                                              Beer Farm, Devon, where John Hurley grew up.    Photo: Euan McGillivray 2007

By the age of 26, with a friend John Burrows, he decided to try his luck on the goldfields of Victoria. So on July 12th 1861 the two young men set out for Australia from Plymouth, on the S.S. Monarch. On October 14th 1861 they landed at Melbourne and headed for the Ballarat goldfields with a party of Chinese prospectors. After having no luck as a gold miner, John left Ballarat and came to settle in Victoria at Ceres, an agricultural village near Geelong, population 173. Here he bought 9 acres of land and returned to his occupation of farming, and growing vegetables to sell at the Geelong market.

Mary Quinn: from Tasmania to Ceres

Mary Margaret Quinn was born in the Brighton district of Tasmania on November 9th 1845 to Elizabeth (nee Tamplin/Frisby) and Patrick Quinn. This was her mother’s second marriage and Mary was the sixth of eventually thirteen children, seven being her half-siblings. Her grandmother was Elizabeth Tamplin (nee Glithero) a convict sent to Tasmania in 1820.

The Quinn family came to Victoria when Mary was about 3 or 4 years old to settle at Ceres. Her mother Elizabeth earned a living as a dressmaker and a midwife. Little is known about her father Patrick except that in June 1851 he was killed in an accident when he was run over by a cart. According to the inquest he had been drunk and fell from the cart under its wheels, dying on the way to being taken home for treatment. Mary was only 6 years old at the time, and the family, which then included her mother and five dependent children, had to seek public charity in order to survive. Patrick’s burial certificate states he was a farmer aged 55. He was buried in the Roman Catholic section of Geelong’s Eastern Cemetery.

Somehow the family got back on their feet because by 1854 Mary’s mother purchased Lot 36 on the Barabool Road in Ceres. By 1860 Mary’s grandmother Elizabeth, recently widowed, came over from Tasmania to join them. Mary was about 15 at that time.


In the next few years Mary moved to Myer St. Geelong, and met John Hurley. On March 23rd 1864 Mary aged 18 (with the written consent of her mother) married John aged 25 in the Geelong Registry Office at the Geelong Court House. The marriage certificate reveals that Mary could not write her name, giving an “X” as her mark in place of a signature. Later that year in Ceres, at the age of 19, she gave birth to their son Thomas on December 24th.

Living and working in Ceres

John was able, and no doubt needed to be able, to turn his hand to a variety of jobs. On his marriage certificate he is described as a labourer, but he also supplemented the family’s income from the farm by working throughout the western district as a shearer. At the time of his son’s marriage in 1887, John is described as a quarryman, probably being employed in the local quarry in the Barabool Hills. Unlike his wife he could write his name and was a witness to the marriage of Mary’s half-sister Ann Gubby to Charles Armistead in 1866 at Trinity Church Barrabool Hills.

1866 was a very sad year for Mary. In March her grandmother died from old age, and in June her mother, aged 46, died of typhoid. In August Mary’s 3 year old half-sister Elizabeth McMurtery also died of typhoid. It seems there was no money for gravestones for these burials and they are unmarked in the Barabool (Highton) Cemetery.

On October 22nd 1870 Mary and John’s second and last child Mary Jane, who was known as Polly, was born at Ceres. Again Mary signs the birth registration with an “X”.

By 1872 John and Mary had acquired Lot 36 on the Barrabool road from Mary’s uncle (John Tamplin jnr.). Years later, son Thomas added 30 more acres in Ceres enabling them to run dairy cattle. John and Mary’s timber cottage, built after 1872 at Ceres, is still to be seen now as part of the property called ‘Glencairn’ at the end of McCann Street overlooking Corio Bay. John and Mary lived together there until 1914.

                                                                                                                                                 The “Hurley House”, at Glencairn, Ceres in 1998, home of John and Mary Hurley.                        Photo: Euan McGillivray

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                                                                                                                                                John and Mary Hurley’s house in 2016.                                          Photo Euan McGillivray


The view opposite the “Hurley House” Ceres                       Photo: Euan McGillivray 1998

The view from this property is described in a traveller’s diary of 1856:

“….one of the loveliest and most picturesque views in Victoria – the Bay of Corio, smoking steamers and richly freighted merchant ships anchored at Point Henry, the rugged and isolated You Yangs, the Barwon River at your feet below, pasture land, cultivated paddocks, wooded patches, the hills of Buninyong, the heads and the open ocean, Lake Connewarre offering a painter’s pleasure, Mt. Moriac with it’s sprinkling of trees, and here and there farm houses built mostly of stone.”

Their grandson Victor Hurley visited them there in October 1914 and reported that they both were well but frail.

Although their lifestyle must have been very simple, education was highly valued and their son Thomas was encouraged to abandon his ambition of becoming a blacksmith and to further his schooling by attending the Flinders School (now Matthew Flinders Girls’ Secondary School) in Geelong. He had to walk there from Ceres every day. He was a high achiever, matriculating and later graduating from the teachers’ training college. He went on to become a highly regarded schoolteacher and eventually Chief School Inspector in Melbourne.


In 1887 Mary and John celebrated the wedding of their son Thomas to Mary Elizabeth Scholes of Ceres. The wedding was held at the bride’s mother’s home. It is interesting to consider what kind of relationship may have existed between Mary and her daughter-in-law Mary Elizabeth Scholes. The Scholes were a pious teetotalling Methodist family and had been part of the Ceres community as long as the Tamplin/Quinns. How did they regard Mary Margaret Hurley who was illiterate, granddaughter of a convict, and daughter of a man who met his death due to drunkenness? Two very different families were brought together when Mary’s son Thomas married Mary Elizabeth Scholes.

John and Mary’s daughter Mary Jane (Polly) married James Steele Stewart from Keilambete, near Terang, on June 28th 1895. The ceremony was conducted by a Presbyterian minister at the Hurleys’ home in Ceres. James was the manager of the Ceres Creamery and he and Polly lived at Ceres at least until 1903, then moved further into western Victoria by 1909 to farm at Mortlake, and finally settling on a farm at South Ecklin near Terang where Polly was the local post-mistress. Bill McKinnon of South Ecklin, in his memoirs of the district, described her: “we were rather afraid of her because she could be of fiery temperament” It is also believed she helped out with some teaching at the local school when necessary. Polly and Jim had two daughters and two sons, one daughter predeceasing Polly.

Final days

In his last year John stayed with his son Thomas who was now living in Ballarat. He died at age 82 of a “cerebral haemorrhage” at their home in Victoria Ave. on December 20th 1915. It is not known if Mary was staying there also at this time. Later, Mary may have gone to live with her daughter Polly, and son-in-law Jim Stewart at Ecklin South. On Mary Hurley’s death certificate it states that she died at “Nurse Stewart’s Private Hospital” in  Terang on August 9th 1917. Cause of death was “bronchial pneumonia and heart failure”. She was 72 years of age and is buried with John in the Ballarat New Cemetery.

John and Mary Hurley’s gravestone at the Ballarat New Cemetery                                              Photo: Euan McGillivray 1999

Click here to continue to Thomas Hurley and Mary Elizabeth Scholes' story