Notes on Jane’s parents

I get the impression that John Stewart was a hard man. He lived a frontier life, born in Van Diemen’s Land in 1845, growing up in pre-gold rush Geelong and then on the central Victorian goldfields. He raised his own family at Eurambeen and the Fiery Creek goldfields. John learned the stonemason’s trade from his father. His work can still be seen in some of the old buildings not far from Ballarat.

Stockyard Hill Hotel 1935. One of the buildings on which John Stewart worked as stonemason. Museum Victoria collection: 'The Biggest Family Album of Australia' MM 000697
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1935
One of the buildings on which John Stewart worked as stonemason.
Museum Victoria collection: ‘The Biggest Family Album of Australia’ MM 000697
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1988
Stockyard Hill Hotel 1988. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

John Stewart was 31 when he married 19-year-old Elizabeth Ann Ball in the Beaufort Primitive Methodist Church on 18 May 1877. As a young man he would have cut a rugged figure; not tall but solidly built with a jet-black bushranger beard.

My father was only two years old when John Stewart died in 1944. But he has a strong image of John sitting in a rocking chair on the back porch at Beaufort, his face hidden under the brim of his hat, puffing away on his “big, old, stinky pipe”.

John and Elizabeth Stewart, Neill Street Beaufort
John and Elizabeth Stewart, 108 Neill Street Beaufort. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.

When my grandmother Rene gave birth to my father, John Stewart declared, “the girl’s too young to have a baby. Take it away from her”. Rene was one month away from her 20th birthday. Apparently it had been acceptable for 31-year-old John to marry 19-year-old Elizabeth, but for Rene 19 was too young. (Elizabeth had had her first child when she was 21.)

Rene remembered Elizabeth Ann Ball as a “lovely lady”. It was Elizabeth who kept a welcoming home and maintained strong relationships with her children and grandchildren.

A welcoming home Elizabeth Ann Stewart (nee Ball) with her daughter Jane (seated), daughter-in-law Amelia Bruce Tan Loo Stewart and Amelia's children Clarence and Nellie Stewart
A welcoming home
Elizabeth Ann Stewart (nee Ball) with her daughter Jane (seated), daughter-in-law Amelia Bruce Tan Loo Stewart and Amelia’s children Clarence and Nellie Stewart. From the author’s collection. Copyright Andrew Palmer.
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