Mary & Alexander MacKillop

History & Heritage, Things To Do Hamilton

ALEXANDER MACKILLOP: Alexander was born on the 21st January 1812 in the Highlands of Scotland. At the age of 12.5 years he went to Rome to study for the priesthood. He spent 9 years in Rome and was a precocious and talented student. But ill health and being too young to be ordained forced his return to Scotland in 1831 where he continued his studies at Blairs College in Aberdeen until 1833. He remained an independent thinker, a prolific writer and a formidable opponent in philosophical and theological debate.

He left for Australia in the sailing ship Brilliant in October 1837, arriving at Sydney Cove on 20th January 1838. He worked successfully for some time in Sydney before moving to Melbourne.

In all we know about Alexander MacKillop there is no evidence that alcohol was his problem. He certainly caused his family embarrassment and was not a good provider for their needs, and it would be easy to say drink was the cause of it… Mary always referred to him as poor Papa… he speculated and spent too much money on drink and a host of parasites…

In an attempt to solve problems which had occurred in Portland after Alexander had found it impossible to live with the obvious deceit that he had uncovered in the school cheating affair and the subsequent derision which he encountered, it was decided that it might be better if Alexander moved to live with his brother at The Plains Station a property at Dunkeld, near Hamilton.

It was reported in the Hamilton Spectator of December 9th 1868 that Alexander MacKillop (MacKillop) was seriously ill, on Thursday evening, at the Victoria Hotel with a haemorrhage from the stomach and was not in a condition to be removed for some days.

It was further reported, in the same article, his wife, who resides in Portland, was informed by telegram, and arrived last evening. Mr MacKillop has of late associated himself with public matters in Hamilton, and cannot fail to be recognised.

Alexander’s death was also reported in the Spectator of Wednesday, December 23rd 1868 as follows: Mr A. MacKillop, whose sudden and serious illness was referred to in our last, expired in the Victoria Hotel at about 6 am on Saturday morning. (19th Dec) It is satisfactory to know that his wife was present at the time of his death, and that he breathed his last in apparent peace. Mr MacKillop was a Roman Catholic, and was at one time intended for the priesthood. He leaves a large family to mourn his loss. The funeral took place on Sunday last.

Father Farrelly, Hamilton P.P. conducted the burial service of Alexander MacKillop on Sunday 20th December 1868.
(In now what is known as the old cemetery in Coleraine Road.)

FLORA MACDONALD: Flora was also a native of the Highlands of Scotland and came to Australia with her family on the Glen Huntley, arriving in Melbourne on April 17th 1840. A gentle winsome woman is how Mary described her mother many years later.

Within a short period of time Alexander and Flora were married at St Francis Church, Melbourne by Fr. Geoghegan on July 14th 1840.

MARY HELEN MACKILLOP: their first born child was born on January 15th 1842 and baptized on 28th February 1842.

They had seven other children: Margaret, John, Alexander, Anne, Alexandrina, Donald, and Peter.

The MacKillop family, while very strong in faith, experienced many difficulties.

In the 1850s the MacKillop family moved constantly, and Mary as the eldest child, played a major part in maintaining the well-being of the family in those times.

In late 1863 after Mary gained a teaching position in Portland the scattered MacKillop family came to live there in Bay View Cottage.

To support her family Mary established her first school a school for young ladies. All did not go well for this venture or for the family. The tensions that grew in the family were attributed mainly to Alexander. It was decided in 1866 that he go to Dunkeld to his youngest brother, Peter.


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Old Cemetery Road, Hamilton