From Milang to Malvern                                  

George Vining Rogers 1865-1934                        Fanny Caroline Mulcahy 1867-1941                  Parents of Valdis Muriel Skidmore

Milang to Victoria

George Vining Rogers was born in Milang South Australia on 12th May 1865, the second of 10 children to be born to George Vining Rogers and Rebecca Jane Fox. His mother came from Northern Ireland and his father came from a family of merchants and medical doctors of Hampshire. Little is known about his mother’s background, or why his father came to Australia, although there is a story that George Vining senior migrated to Australia to get away from his alcoholic father, medical doctor John Blyth Rogers.

George’s father was a boatman, later a master mariner captaining steamers trading up and down the Murray River. Milang, then a busy town situated on Lake Alexandrina, at the mouth of the Murray River was central in the export and import of goods between Port Adelaide and the eastern states. George junior worked as a mercantile clerk and then later became a grain broker. Growing up in Milang he would have found many employment opportunities in this thriving sea and river trade.

George Vining Rogers’ birthplace in 1865: Milang, South Australia, photograph by A. Mattingley c1934

Source: State Library of Victoria

The Mulcahys in Clunes

Born on April 10th 1867, Fanny Caroline Mulcahy was the eighth and youngest child of John Mulcahy and Sarah Payne of Clunes, Victoria. She grew up with four older brothers and three older sisters and it was said she was born at “The Mount” in Clunes. Her birth certificate says East Clunes. Her parents had arrived from London at Port Adelaide in 1853, and gradually the family made their way across to Victoria, living for a short time in Ballarat, and finally settling in the busy gold-mining town of Clunes.  Her father was a boot-maker and when Fanny was growing up, had his own business in Fraser Street, the main street of Clunes, in partnership with his eldest son John Stephen. By the time of Fanny’s wedding her father had a boot-making business in South Yarra probably at the same address as their residence on busy Toorak Road.

After her birth, the next record of Fanny is of her vaccination in Clunes the same year. Clunes’ records show the Mulcahys as very active in the local community – sports, the Bible Christian church, hospital committees etc. In 1882 when Fanny was 15, the family suffered a tragedy when her brother Thomas George was killed in a mining accident at Clunes. Her two oldest brothers married in Clunes, and eventually all her sisters married in Melbourne. It is not known exactly when the Mulcahys left Clunes to settle in Melbourne, but it was at least by 1891 when Fanny married. Her brother John Stephen maintained his ties with Clunes attending the “Clunes In Melbourne” “conversazione” at the Vienna Café in Melbourne in 1901, a reunion social event. Later in 1925 George and Fanny attended his Golden Wedding Anniversary at her sister Hilda’s home in Auburn. Given as a surprise, the celebration was reported in The Clunes Guardian with a list of all the family and friends attending and the gifts they presented. Fanny and George gave a pair of silver serviette rings.

The Mulcahys lived at Clunes, Victoria. Engraving by W.C. Fitler 1886                                                              Source: The Picturesque Atlas of Australasia (1886-8)

Marriage in South Yarra

In 1886 George’s mother died in Milang at the age of 42 from tuberculosis. Around this time young George moved to Victoria. In 1891 on June 9th at 26 years of age he married 22-year-old Fanny at her parents’ home at 8 Toorak Road South Yarra. A Bible Christian minister performed the marriage ceremony. On the marriage certificate George gave his “usual residence” as the Oriental Coffee Palace in Victoria Street North Melbourne (this building still exists although stripped of its Victorian ornamentation). He gave his “present address” as 3 Park Street Parkville in Melbourne, maybe the home of relatives or friends. Witnesses at the wedding were Fanny’s sister Eliza and her brother John Stephen.

Former Oriental Coffee Palace, North Melbourne, the “ usual address” of George Vining Rogers in 1901. Photo c1900, then called Gladstone House, now the Polaris Building                                                                                                    Source: Picture Victoria

The children of Fanny and George

Between 1893 and 1912 Fanny and George had nine babies. All lived to adulthood except for one – Alma Mavis who died at 6 months of age in 1906. Their eldest son George Vining (b.1893) was a bachelor and suffered from heart trouble for many years dying prematurely at 39 years of age in 1932. His occupation on his death certificate states he was an orchardist and his usual address was with his parents in East Malvern. All the others married and had their own families.

The girls were mainly employed in office work before marrying – Vera Olive (b.1894) was a typist and married Alfred James Hawkes, moved to Adelaide and had two sons. She died in Adelaide in1976; Valdis Muriel (b.1901) was a typist in her father’s office before marrying roof tiler John Skidmore and having seven children; Zelma Beatrice (b.1903) married motor-driver Allan Horsey, had three children and died in Melbourne in 1968; Ailsa Decima (b.1908) was a clerk before she married architect Stewart Kipling McIntyre and had two children. She died in 1992 in Brighton; Esme Voni (b.1912) was also a typist before marrying farm labourer Robert Basil Ferguson and having two children. They lived near Yarrawonga and she died in 2007 in Melbourne at 95 years of age. 

Of the other sons Victor Lance (b.1898) was a joiner when he enlisted in the AIF as a soldier in WWI. He married Margaret Jean Reidy and had twin daughters. His post-war occupations included mail officer and watchman although prior to these jobs he is listed as having “no occupation” in the rolls of 1931, 1936 and 1937 probably because he suffered from war injuries - shrapnel wounds; and Carl Geoffry (b.1904) was a driver and storeman who married Veronica Jane Cusack, lived in East Malvern and had four children. He died in 1949 at the early age of 45. However most of George and Fanny’s children had long lives.

Many had unusual nicknames used by their nieces and nephews: Victor was Uncle Blink (and called my mother his “little toothbrush”), he was also called Dig as he had been a soldier. Zelma was Aunty Blue because she had blue eyes, Carl was Uncle Bon, Ailsa was Aunty Tot (known for being a “dear little tot” when a child), and Esme was called Aunty Den.

George and Fanny Rogers with their children: Back: Zelma, Esme (on Fanny’s knee), Ailsa and Valdis; Front: Carl and Vera. c1916                                                                            Source: family collection

From Coburg to the bay

George and Fanny spent their life together in various areas in what is now metropolitan Melbourne. Their first child George was born in North Melbourne in 1893. After that they lived in Coburg from 1894 when Vera was born. They were at Rennie Street Coburg in 1901 when Valdis was born and 184 O’Heas Road according to the electoral rolls in 1903. They remained in Coburg until 1909. At this time Coburg was not the populated suburb it is today but a semi-rural new estate area that experienced boom and bust from the 1880s into the early 20th century. It had its share of sanitation problems, speculative subdividing and inappropriate industrial developments although some parts were considered “respectable”.

In 1913 Fanny’s father John Mulcahy died at 89 years of age. He had been living with his daughter Sarah at 187 Bell Street Coburg. George’s father had died at the age of 79 in 1910 at Swan Hill where his daughters Lucy and Ida lived. They also moved to Coburg in the next couple of years.

By 1914 George, Fanny and family had left Coburg and moved south east of Melbourne to Lochiel Avenue at bayside Aspendale. It was from here on April 26th 1916 that son Victor Lance signed up with the AIF for WWI and subsequently left for France and the Western Front. He was to return three years later discharged being medically unfit due to receiving shrapnel wounds. It was also from here that daughters Vera and Valdis left to marry. The electoral roll of 1931 now gives the Rogers’ address as Railway Avenue, Cheltenham. Daughter Ailsa is living with them and presumably also the youngest, Esme. From this time George is found listed as a grain-broker in the Victorian Government Gazette and the Victorian Journal of Agriculture from 1930 to 1933.

East Malvern

By 1934 George and Fanny had moved to 5 Moama Road East Malvern, and it was here on July 11th that year George Vining Rogers died at the age of 69 years. He had been suffering with heart problems for the previous 3 months and cause of death was given as “Myocarditis”. Eldest son George had also died from heart trouble two years earlier and George was buried with him in his grave at the Cheltenham Cemetery.

By the close of 1934 all but two of George and Fanny’s living children had married and were living independently, Carl having married in the same year of his father’s death. However the electoral rolls of 1936 show some changes. Fanny and Esme were still at 5 Moama Road, and Victor had now  joined them. Ailsa was living separately not far away at 5 Nirvana Road and Carl appears on the electoral roll in Orbost in far eastern Victoria. The next year the rolls show a more crowded house at Moama Road with Carl and wife Veronica joining Fanny, Esme and Victor. Perhaps the 1930s Depression was having its effects on the Rogers.

Soon after, Fanny moved to 23 Tollington Ave East Malvern to a lovely two-storey house overlooking the Hedgley Dene Gardens (unfortunately this house has been demolished). It was here on September 30th 1941 that Fanny had just finished putting some cakes in the oven and commented that she was feeling a little tired and would just go to lie down for a bit on her bed. Here she died at the age of 73 years. She had suffered heart trouble for five years and the cause of death was “coronary thrombosis and myocarditis”. Fanny Caroline Rogers was buried with her husband and eldest son at the Cheltenham Cemetery.

My mother’s memories of her Nana Rogers are of a warm and fun-loving old lady who liked things to be “easy”. She seemed tall but slightly built, and had thin, wrinkled hands. She is remembered wearing long black dresses, a coat with an astrakhan collar and a polka dot scarf. My mother recalls that when a sick brother or sister, unable to get out of bed when their grandmother visited, would be teased with “nana’s in the kitchen” as a reminder of the fun they would be missing.

Click here to continue to Valdis Muriel Rogers and John (Jack) Skidmore’s story