Master Mariner on the Murray

George Vining Rogers 1832-1910 Rebecca Jane Fox 1844-1886 Paternal grandparents ofValdis Muriel Skidmore

Hampshire to South Australia

George Vining Rogers was born in Droxford Hampshire on November 18th1832, the son ofEmma Cobden and John Blyth Rogers, a doctor of Droxford. His mother died from tuberculosis when he was only four years old leaving George, his two older brothers and younger sister in the care of their father. The 1841 census shows his brothers and sister at boarding schools in nearby Alton, but George aged 8 is with his grandmother Mary Ann Rogers and grandfather, also named George Vining Rogers, a surgeon in West Meon, near Droxford. George’s father has not been found in this census, and I have not located George or his father in the 1851 census.

Droxford, Hampshire, birthplace of George Vining Rogers in 1832.

Source: John Sparshatt southern

The next we hear of George is at the age of 22 when he arrives in Port Adelaide, South Australia on March 4th1855. He traveled aboard the migrant ship “Flora Kerr” which left London on November 17th1854. It is said he migrated to Australia to get away from his alcoholic father. It was fortunate that George arrived safely, for a report from the Whitechapel County Court in The Shipping Gazette of June 11th 1855* reveals the installation of faulty pumps in the ship, whose malfunction would have caused the deaths of all passengers and crew, should the ship have encountered a storm.

George did arrive safely but how he made a living to begin with is not known. However, there is a record in Howell’s Directory for the City of Adelaide 1858 of “Geo. Rogers, Occupation: `Clarendon Hotel; Location: 167 Hindley Street; area: North and South Adelaide.” Although George became a master mariner, his occupation on his death certificate is “publican”, so it is possible that the man at the Clarendon Hotel may have been our George.

Northern Ireland to South Australia

Rebecca Jane Fox came from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland. She emigrated to South Australia at the age of 14 years, with her father John** age 38, and her two older sisters: Isabella, 16 years and Catherine, 19 years of age. Their mother Matilda Fox (nee Scott) had died in Londonderry. Records indicate that at least one sister, Catherine was born in Castlederg, County Tyrone, and that the family were Anglicans.

Shipquay Street, Londonderry inNorthern Ireland, the city where Matilda Fox died. Photo c 1900

Source: National Museums Northern Ireland

John Fox and his daughters sailed on the “Admiral Boxer” from Liverpool, England on May 23rd 1855 and arrived at Port Adelaide on August 21st. John is described as an agricultural labourer, and the girls as domestic servants. The South Australian Register of Wednesday 22nd August 1855 describes the ship’s arrival:

“Arrived on the 21st August with 384 Government emigrants. This ship was well adapted for emigrants, being lofty and well ventilated. The discipline and management in this ship were excellent. All the people expressed themselves well satisfied with their diet and treatment. The casualties consisted of 3 births and the death of one infant child. 153 young women arrived by this ship, adding to the accumulating numbers of those who can find no employment.”

A story passed down was that when the family arrived in South Australia, John left his daughters at the wharf in the care of a minister of religion. John then went to the market garden area north of Adelaide. Isabella married Michael Halloran in 1859, and Catherine married William Verner in 1861, was widowed in 1865 and then married David Davies in 1867. John Fox also had three sons, Matthew, Robert and John, but it is not known if they migrated to Australia or remained in Ireland. John Fox died in 1894 aged 79 years, at the home of his daughter Isabella, in Wakefield Street, Adelaide. He is buried in West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide.

Port Adelaide c1840s. The Fox family arrived here in 1855. Source: “An account of the sea coast and interior of South Australia” by Charles Sturt1847eBooks@Adelaide University of Adelaide Library

Marriage to Rebecca Fox

On the 5thJanuary 1863 at Milang, situated on the shores of Lake Alexandrina South Australia, George age 29 married 20-year-old Rebecca. The wedding took place at the home of Mr. and Mrs. De La Hoye and was conducted by C. D. Watts, a Congregational church minister.

Their children

Rebecca and George produced ten children whilst living at Milang, only five survived to adulthood. Their names reveal their family history:

1.Emma Millicent (name of George’s mother, also his sister) born 23/11/1863, died 15/8/1946 at Milang when 86 years old. Known for eccentric habit of always wearing hats, even to bed.

2.George Vining (named after the father or great grandfather) born 12/5/1865, died 11/7/1934 in East Malvern, Victoria. He married Fanny Caroline Mulcahy in 1891 at South Yarra and had nine children.

3.John Blyth (name of George’s father) born and died in June 1866, 1 day old.

4.Ida Mary Finniss B. (name of the first Premier of S.A.- Boyd Finniss and the town named after him) born 26/6/1867, married widower Charles Frederick Amiet and had one child - Eugenie. Ida died in Coburg, Victoria 17/11/1919 age 52. Her father may have lived with her when he retired as he died at Tyntynder South (near Swan Hill) where Ida and her husband had a farm in 1910.

5.Theodore Murray (either named after the river or his father’s cousin) born 19/1/1869, died 11/7/1944, District 2 Adelaide. He married Elizabeth Brockensha in 1892 in Adelaide and had four children. The 1909 electoral roll shows he and his wife at 11 Loch Street Coburg, not far from his brother George in O’Hea’s Street. Theodore is described as a storeman on the electoral roll.

6.Charles Fiers Cobden (George’s aunt Sarah Cobden married Charles Fiers, a merchant from Genoa) born 21/6/1871. He died at Milang 20/12/1880 at age 9.

7.Mary Anne (name of George’s grandmother and an aunt) born and died in 1873.

8.Francis Heron (Rogers are related to the Herons via the Vinings) born 13/2/1874, death date and place unknown, but he was alive in 1910 when George died.

9.Fanny Sale (named after Manchester lawyer William Sale who married two of George’s aunts (not simultaneously of course!: Millicent and Priscilla Cobden). Fanny was born 16/1/1876 and died the next year at Milang.

10.Lucy Fanny born 8/9/1878 is also at Swan Hill on the 1903 electoral roll with her sister Ida and also in Coburg with Ida and Charles in 1914 and 1919. Her occupation was a machinist. Her death date is unknown.


The Southern Argus of April 20th 1882 sadly reported:

“Great indignation is felt by the inhabitants of Milang at a dastardly act which was perpetrated between Sunday night and Monday morning, of last week, in the cemetery. A marble tombstone erected by Mr. G V Rogers over the graves of three of his children was dug up and pushed face downwards on the graves. The villain probably being frightened and disturbed, left his abominable work unfinished for the time, but the friends going again to thegraves next morning, found the stone smashed to pieces. Up to the present time the police have not been successful in securing the offender, but it is to be hoped that e’re long he will be caught andseverely punished."

Rebecca died of tuberculosis and tubercular disease of the intestines at the age of 42 on July 20th1886 in Milang. She was buried on the 27thJuly in the Milang cemetery. Her grave is unmarked.

George’s work

What brought George to Milang was probably the prospect of earning a good living from Milang’s economic boom that lasted from the 1860s to 1880s. The settlements of Milang situated on Lake Alexandrina, and Goolwa at the mouth of the Murray River, developed into busy ports, managing goods transported along the Murray by steamer between Adelaide and around the coast to Victoria and the other eastern states. This provided much economic stimulus for these growing communities on the Fleurieu Peninsula.The goods included wool from the Darling and Upper Murray stations which horse and bullock teams then took to Port Adelaide, and wheat shipped to Milang’s flour mills and shipped back as flour.Overseas goods shipped to Adelaide also had to go through Milang before reaching the eastern colonies.

In the South Australian Directory for 1870 George is described as a boatman. On August 27th1884, George qualified as a Master Mariner at Goolwa, which entitled him to be a “Master of a Steamer trading on the River Murray.”

George Vining Rogers’ Master Mariner’s Certificate 1884 Source: Marine Board South Australia

On January 2nd1902 the Adelaide Advertiser has a brief report entitled “Milang Regatta” which describes celebrations for Commemoration Day on December 31st1901:

“There was a large attendance at the regatta here on Commemoration Day. Mr. Woodrow won the 50 trophy for the first-class handicap sailing race for the third time, and therefore the prize became his property. The winning yacht is the Venture. The regatta was highly successful, and for the result Mr. Lipson, the secretary deserves special credit. Captain G.V. Rogers was the handicapper, Mr. W. Russell acted as judge, and Capt. Kruse and Mr. Playfair were the timekeepers….”

Main Street of Milang 1896 Source: Library of South Australia: Milang Collection

Loading paddle steamers at Goolwa, SA Source:

The next record we have of George is his last - his death certificate states he died on 29th November 1910 at Tyntynder South, Swan Hill Victoria. The informant was his son-in-law Charles Amiet, farmer of Swan Hill. He states George had been in South Australia 57 years and in Victoria two years and that his occupation was a publican. Cause of death was senility and sudden heart failure. He was 79 years of age and is buried in the Swan Hill cemetery.

*Shipping Gazette & Sydney General Trade List Vol 12 ; Page 125 ; 11 Jun 1855

**The South Australian Death Index lists a John Fox age 79 died 26th November 1894, residence Wakefield Street Adelaide.

Click here to continue to George Vining Rogers and Fanny Caroline Mulcahy’s story