Greenough Hamlet- my living history

The tiny hamlet of Greenough, four hundred kilometres north of Perth in Western Australia and twenty-four kilometres south of Geraldton, draws me like a magnet.  

Every few years, I have an urge to return to the district with its river and strange trees bend that bend away from the salt-filled wind.

Each visit enriches my understanding of who I am and where I’ve come from. My Irish, maternal great-grandparents settled in Greenough the mid-nineteenth century. It’s where my grandmother, my mother and her siblings grew up. 

Greenough is my living history.
Main street, Greenough Hamlet

Greenough buildings

The hamlet, once the centre of the thriving settlement, no longer sits on the main road. The highway has been built to bypass what was once the main street of Greenough, where seven buildings still stand as a monument to the pioneers and to history.

These buildings, built from local limestone, have been carefully restored with funding from the National Trust of Australia, Lotterywest and other benefactors. The church, convent, civic hall, school, police quarters, court house and a private home show a fragment of how life might once have been lived in Greenough.

A handful of other buildings in the wider district have also been restored. Several are now private homes, glimpsed behind trees from the road. The museum was once the home of a prominent pioneer family. However, the stables, flour mill and store adjacent to the old homestead have collapsed in ruins, along with many others in the area.

The well-tended Pioneer Cemetery, away from the hamlet, tells stories of the original settlers and their families, including my own. The first recorded burial was that of five-month-old Elizabeth Lintott, in 1857. There have been no burials there since 1974.

My mother, Florence Stone, grandmother and aunts, all accomplished story-tellers, regaled me, my siblings and cousins with their versions of life on the land on the back flats of Greenough where they lived, separated from the front flats and the hamlet by a low limestone ridge.

Men working for the dole during the Great Depression at the end of the 1920s demolished many original stone buildings because there was no proper work available They crushed the material to make roads.

Family stories about Greenough

My great-great-grandfather, was a Pensioner Guard – a soldier who had fought in the Crimean War. These men could no longer fight wars because of their age or injuries. They came to Western Australia in the mid-nineteenth century as guards on the ships used to transport convicts from England.

For their services, the guards were promised an allotment of land in Greenough. My great-great-grandfather and hundreds of others took up their tiny parcels of land where they built shelters and eked out a meagre living for their wives and children.

Some of the stories I heard as a child were of hardship, isolation and desolation. Some stories were about devastating floods which washed away houses and fences and carried cattle downstream.

It was 38 degrees Celsius when John and I last went to Greenough, but my skin was goose-bumpy when we went into the one-classroom school where my mother and her four siblings were educated.
Classroom in the Greenough School

The room is sanitised now, the floors and desks polished – a tourist attraction like the rest of the hamlet. But I could imagine how it might have been all those years ago. My mother spoke proudly of her role as a ‘monitor’ when she was the oldest child in the school, with the job of helping the teacher with the younger children.

My maternal great-grandparents were of strong, Irish Catholic stock, so they probably went to Mass on Sundays, celebrated St Patrick’s Day and their children were baptised. St Peter’s Catholic Church is still a ‘working’ church, where Mass is celebrated on Sundays. My grandmother, Catherine Buckley, married Samuel Rogers in the church in 1902. Couples from Greenough and nearby Geraldton can still marry in the church.

Historical records

There are historical records as well as descriptions of the day-to-day lives of the more prosperous families who first settled the region. But the people who lived on the back flats were away from public notice, and few records have been found about them.
Greenough Prison

However, this trip I found a mention in a document in the Geraldton museum of the delicious butter made by ‘the Buckley’s’, my family, and sold in the Greenough market. Last trip I discovered a record of the croup suffered by my Aunt Evelyn recorded in the apothecary’s notes in 1917.

A few years ago, I wrote a novel which I set in Greenough and Geraldton. I never finished it to my satisfaction. Now I’m itching to take it out again and dust it off. Perhaps I have enough energy, insight and knowledge after my latest visit to Greenough to think about reworking it.

Click here for more stories about my mother for information about the Greenough Festival to be held on Sunday, 6 October 2019.

Click here for more information about Pensioner Guards


17 replies on “Greenough Hamlet- my living history”

  1. A lovely reflection on Greenough and what it means to you. I look forward to reading your novel.

    1. Greenough is in my blood and under my skin, Susan. It’s hard to explain why. But I keep trying.

  2. Me too Susan – I just love your writing! I must go to Greenough too.

    1. Thank you, Claire. Yes, you must go to Greenough one day, and take your children. I would love you to keep that part of our shared history alive.

  3. My something Grandfather was a Rowe He married one of the Stone girls. Although the girls were catholic they used to play the piano on the Anglican Church. That is where they met, and later married in the Catholic church. James Rowe is written in the history books as the younger brother of John the first surveyor General. According to aboriginal stories he treated them badly. I wonder if there is any connection.

    1. Hi. I am pretty sure the first surveyor General in WA was John Septimus Roe, not Rowe.
      I may be wrong, so interesting to hear the variation of spelling.

  4. Sure to be a connection, Miriam. I’m not sure if you know that my maiden name was Stone? However the connection will be on my maternal side. We are related to the Geraldton/Greenough Stones. I will ask my niece, Rosie Stone, who has an amazing knowledge of our family history.

    1. Maureen, we definitely need to ask Rosie about this! Interesting if we were related to Roe family – remember in my teens knowing Geoff Roe a great grandson of the Surveyor General.

    2. Hi Maureen!
      We definitely had a Roe (this is the spelling I had but it could have changed) connection. In 1880 in Greenough Helen Emily Roe, daughter of James Elphinstone Roe (you can find more info on him here:, he was pretty interesting!) married Patrick Stone. Patrick and Emily had 10 children
      Patrick Stone was the son of James and Ann Stone who first came to Australia in the 1860s. James was the pensioner guard, their twin daughters Catherine and Jane Ann each married a Buckley brother. We are descendants of Jane Ann Stone and John Buckley.

      One thing I have found as a way to find family stories is the website I use names as keywords and sometimes filter by local newspapers, I have found some interesting stories, they put everything in the newspapers then, information about court cases, car crashes, deaths, marriages, births, wills, etc.
      Here is an example from 1888: GERALDTON.
      On the 4th inst. James Stone, landlord
      of the Travellers’ Rest hotel, was fined
      £50 and costs for having unlawfully sold
      or supplied persons with liquor on the 27th
      May last, that being a Sunday.

      Rosie xx

      1. More fabulous information. And fancy James Stone being the landlord of the Travellers’ Rest. I think it is now called the Hampton Arms. Do you know if that is right? I love going there and never knew there was a connection.

        My mother always said I was fifth generation Australian, but this looks as if I may only be fourth gen. What do you say?

    3. We do have a Roe (this is the spelling I have) connection, though not John Septimus Roe, the land surveyor.

      Patrick Stone married Emily Helen Roe who was the daughter of James Elphinstone Roe, you can read about him here:, he was a really interesting part of WA history and education in WA!

      Patrick Stone was the son of James and Ann Stone who came to Australia in the early 1860s. James was the pensioner guard. James and Jane’s twin daughters Catherine and Jane Ann each married one of the Buckley brothers, we are the descendants of Jane and John Buckley and their daughter Catherine Bridget Buckley.

      Also, one interesting way I have found to find family stories is the website, I use names as keywords and limit it by location and have found some pretty fun articles. They put everything in the newspapers.
      This article about the death of Jane Stone is a nice example:


      1. Hi, Rosie, That is really amazing! Thank you for all this information. My grandmother (and your father’s) was the Catherine Bridget Buckley you talk about, but everyone called her Cate or Katie. I love looking up the old newspapers. Cate’s father, John, was a bit of a baddie, as I found from the paper of the time! And he let his kids play truant.

        1. Mardie was one of ten kids. I never knew that! Knew of Auntie Gertie McCartney and Ethel Kennedy.

          1. Yes, I did know that. Her father was a real bad egg, often before the magistrate for drunk and disorderly, the kids not going to school. You have obviously read Rosie’s response to my blog? Mxx

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