John Oliver's Family History Pages

Our Gilmer Family

Descendants of Patrick Gilmer

 For more in depth information on the Gilmer Family, go to the Publications page where you can download the book

Gilmer & Curran


The Gilmer Family

We thought that we knew that our Gilmer family came from Northern Ireland but the exact county had not yet been verified, with Armagh and Down being possible counties. This is what was written by family members. Our pioneer, John Gilmer stated that he was born in Ravensdale, Southern Ireland. Ravensdale is in County Louth, which shares a border with County Down in Northern Ireland

We do know, by way of family lore, and from notes written by Edward Curran Gilmer (Undated C 1971 verbatim):

“John Gilmer of Armagh, Northern Ireland married Eliza Jane Curran in Rostrevor, same county, arrived in Australia in early 1860's with letters of introduction to Sir Joshua Peter Bell of Jimbour. They stayed as his guests at Jimbour for some time before returning to live at Breakfast Creek (Brisbane). He was far gone in consumption and had immigrated to Queensland where some of his brothers in law Edward and Patrick Curran had settled. He died when my father Patrick Gilmer was about 5 years old. (This does not agree with known dates - John Oliver.) He was buried in Toowong Cemetery, the only cemetery in Brisbane. The records show that it was Brisbane's first and only cemetery then. Patrick Gilmer was born in a house in Bell Street, Petries Bight, then a residential centre in the infant town of Brisbane, population between 1000 & 2000. Bell St, today (1971), a short street, houses large commercial buildings (I think that this street was in the suburb of Petrie Terrace, now known as Paddington. This street no longer exists. Author)

The Gilmer, some of whom resided in Northern Ireland but the main branch of the Gilmer Clan settled at what is now known Gilmerton in the Clyde County between 16 & 20 Miles from Edinburgh and the Gilmer were and are the direct descendants of the Lairds of Gilmerton and Grange where the family baronial home is situated. John Gilmer and Eliza Jane Curran were married in the Cathedral at Rostrevor, belonging to the Church of Ireland, an established church like the C of E. My father was born 3 weeks after arrival in Brisbane and my Grandmother often told us of the many blacks about that time. Meanwhile her two brothers who had visited New Zealand and worked on the building of the first railway in Queensland from Ipswich to Bigges Camp, now known as Grandchester. After which they emigrated to Victoria following of road and bridge contractors. The last bridge they built while with Edward Hughes was the traffic bridge over the Campese river at Rochester, Victoria. A new bridge was built alongside the old after 75 years, in recent years. They arrived in Rochester in 1863 and selected land in Rochester West in 1865. - On the death of Patrick Curran, these selections were inherited by my grandmother and were sold at 4 Pounds per acre in early 1910.The Rochester farms are now in what is known as the Epilock scheme. My father Patrick married Mary Eliza Rourke, a daughter of Denis Rourke (Known as Dinny O’Rourke) who kept the Box Hall Hotel, Nanneella. “

From Edward’s writing, some inconsistencies with fact and dates are evident.

Rostrevor is in County Down.

The river through Rochester is the Campaspe River.

Edward means the Eppalock scheme.  Lake Eppalock was formed in 1962 to provide water for surrounding areas.  The lake itself is closer to Bendigo than Rochester, but part of the aquifer system is around Rochester.


And from Mary Woolley nee Gilmer

 The Maryborough Chronicle 2nd June 1967 (Qld)

Link with History.

Two grand uncles, Edward and Patrick Curran left County Down, Northern Ireland in 1863, accompanied by their sister and her husband, John Gilmer. They had sold their 'water power' factory in Northern Ireland where they made such hardware as shovels, picks and forks for the potato trade. When steam power replaced this, they sold out, and obtained letters of introduction to Sir Joshua Peter Bell at Jimbour, Queensland.

After arrival in Queensland, the Curran's proceeded from Ipswich by bullock dray, leaving their sister behind. A son born to her at Bell Street, Petrie Bight, Brisbane, was the late Patrick Gilmer, father of Mr Edward Curran Gilmer, of Sussex Street, Maryborough.

Obtaining the backing of Sir Joshua Peter Bell, a member of the Queensland Legislature, the Curran brothers secured contracts on the first railway in Queensland - from Ipswich to Grandchester, which was completed in a year? The Curran's found the convicts employed by them a little troublesome, however.

John Gilmer and his wife, Eliza, heavily pregnant, would come to Queensland to settle but misfortune bestruck John with him dying about 12 months after arrival. His death certificate states 14 months but this would be incorrect. After John’s death, the family, together with Eliza’s two brothers, would move to Rochester in Victoria.

Eliza’s son Patrick would meet and marry Mary Eliza O’Rourke and produce 14 children. Together the family farmed the west Rochester area. After the deaths of the Curran brothers, the family decided on another move

It would eventually be to Byrnestown, in Queensland and after the communes were abandoned by the Government of the day, that Patrick Gilmer, son of John, would venture with his mother together with his wife and thirteen children to farm and live. And from the report by his son Edward: “and the family came to Queensland and selected blocks 11, 12 and 13 on the last resumption of land previously known as Wetheron Station, a foolish move as Queensland was peopled mainly by large cattle and sheep stations and no markets for farm produce... my father was never cut out to be a pioneer.” Patrick was a wheat farmer in Rochester West.

Prior to moving the family to Byrnestown, Patrick together with his brother-in-law, Bert O’Rourke (he always pronounced his surname “O’Rook”) and eldest son Edward travelled to Byrnestown and together built the Gilmer residence.

The Brisbane Courier of the 29 June 1909 notes P Gilmer and T. O’Rourke arriving on the Ship Cooma from Sydney and Melbourne. The ‘T’ may be a translation error. Evidently Bert (Hubert) spoke with an Irish Brogue which could have made Bert sound like “T”.

A house would be built which was typical of the time. The kitchen and dining areas were separate from the main section of the house. This can be seen in the above picture. There was a ramp connecting the Kitchen/dining area to the main house. The house was located on the Byrnestown - Mt Perry road.

Of course before moving, the Rochester property had to be sold. Eliza Gilmer had inherited the farm from her brother, Patrick. Clippings from papers below refer:

The Argus (Melbourne... Friday 31 October 1890, page 7

 IN the SUPREME COURT of the COLONY of VICTORIA In its Probate Jurisdiction - In the Will of PATRICK CURRAN, Late of Rochester West, in the County of Bendigo , in the Colony of Victoria, farmer, Deceased. - Notice is hereby given, that after the expiration of 14 days from the publication hereof application will be made to the Supreme Court of the colony of Victoria in its Probate jurisdiction, that PROBATE of the WILL of the abovenamed Patrick Curran, deceased. be granted to Eliza Jane Gilmer, of Rochester West, in the colony of Victoria, widow, and Patrick Gilmer, of Rochester West, in the said colony of Victoria, farmer, the executrix and executor named in and appointed by the said will.

Dated this 30th day of October, 1890

GILLMAN and MUSSEN, Albany-chambers, No. 230 Collins-street, Melbourne, proctors for the said executrix and executor

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1954) Saturday 29 January 1910

 ROCHESTER. Friday -At the sale-yards yesterday, Messrs. Mason Bros. (in conjunction with Cordner, Reynell, and Co), sold 322 acres of Mrs. E. Gilmer's land at Rochester West to Mr. P. Doherty; £10 an acre was paid for the homestead block of 160 acres, and £9/17/ for the remainder.

 Before leaving Rochester, the Gilmer’s were given a local farewell.

The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.: 1848-1954) Wednesday 23 February 1910

At his farm in Rochester West, Mr.  P. Gilmer and his family were entertained at a farewell supper on the eve of his departure for Queensland. Councillor J. G, Rankin presented Mr. and Mrs. Gilmer with a silver tea and coffee service and Mrs. Gilmer, senior, with a cabinet of cutlery.

 The Gilmer’s departed Melbourne on the ship Wyreema on Tuesday 7th March 1910, via Sydney to Brisbane, where they disembarked on Friday 10 March 1910. On the way to Brisbane the Wyreema was involved in a collision with a coal ship off Bradley’s Head in Sydney on Tuesday 8 March 1910.

The Sydney Morning Herald... Wednesday 9 March 1910




One of the most serious harbour collisions for some years past occurred at about 9.15 last night immediately abreast of the lighthouse at Bradley's Head between the A.U.S.N. Company's big passenger liner Wyreema and the well known steam collier Currajong with the result that the latter vessel foundered within the space of a few minutes.

The Wyreema with a record number of passengers on board left the A.U.S.N. Company's wharf at the foot of Lime-street at 8. 40 p m., outward bound for Cairns via Brisbane and ports while the Currajong which belongs to the Bellambi Coal Company Limited was inward bound with a cargo of coal from the southern collieries Precisely what happened will not be known until an exhaustive investigation has been made by a Court of Marine Inquiry; but it is asserted by eyewitnesses on passing vessels that for several minutes before the actual impact both vessels sounded vigorous blasts of their whistles.

When it became apparent that a collision was inevitable excitement ran high among the passengers on the Wyreema who were on deck, and the women and children screamed with fear. The Wyreema which is 10 times the size of the Currajong struck the collier a terrific blow right amidships on the port side with the result that an enormous hole   was made in her side. At the moment of the impact it was thought the stem of the big liner would completely cut the Currajong in halves and the gravest fears were felt for the safety of her crew. Vast volumes of water immediately commenced to pour in through the great gap in the side of the Currajong and within the space of a minute it was only too evident that she was a doomed vessel. The water rapidly filled the engine room extinguishing the furnace fires and the engineers and firemen who remained at their posts as long as possible were at last compelled to rush to the deck of the sinking vessel. Then there was a fear that the water coming into contact with the heated boilers would cause an explosion but happily this did not take place.

Within a very short space of time - variously estimated at from two to four minutes - the Currajong was full of water and commenced to settle down by the head. Eventually she took a terrific plunge, and sank bows first into deep water. All hands on the Currajong were thrown into the harbour and there were loud cries for help. The lifeboats on the Wyreema were quickly manned and launched and proceeded to the assistance of the men struggling in the water. The night was somewhat dark and it was difficult to locate the distressed seamen but the lifeboat crews worked well and within an incredibly short space of time succeeded in rescuing, the whole of the crew of the Currajong with the exception of one man who is still missing. In view of the fact however that numbers of motor boat's sailing craft, and pulling boats came to the rescue, it is regarded as quite possible that the missing man was picked up. Inquiries were still being made at midnight by the water police. 

The Wyreema remained in the vicinity of Bradley's Head for about half an hour, and cruised round and round in search of the missing man. A hurried examination was also made by the engineering staff of the Wyreema to ascertain whether any serious damage had been sustained. Shortly before 10 o'clock the Wyreema proceeded to Neutral Bay where she cast anchor. ...

As a result of a careful survey of the Wyreema, it was discovered early this morning that the damage done was not of serious character. Some plates on the starboard side about 5ft above the waterline were fractured but the holes were very small. A gang of workmen was at once engaged to patch the fracture with a new plate and Captain Meaburn intimated his intention of proceeding on his voyage as soon as the work was completed.

It is expected that the Wyreema will sail from the Orient Company's buoy in Neutral Bay before daylight this morning.

 The Gilmer Family most probably would have travelled by train for their new residence in Byrnestown. One can but wonder at the mood and inner-most thoughts on arriving at their destination.

 This would be nothing like the land and country that they left near Rochester.


 For more information on this family please contact me for a copy of the document - "Gilmer & Curran".