gun alley stories

58 John St Stories


Possibly due to its closeness to the Olinda Creek Lot 9 was not one of earliest blocks sold and due to the banks of the creek was an odd shape similar as was the lot across the road – Lot 12 Block 1.

Audio Introduction

Throughout the Gun Alley pages you will see references in old articles to £ (pounds). £1 = $2; 10/- (10 shillings) = $1; 5/- (5 shillings) = 50 cents. Please note: this does not reflect the value of the money but serves as an indication only.

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John Hutchinson

William Hutchinson (1880 – 21/7/1884)

William Scott (21/7/1884 – 1/6/1914)

Isaac Scott (1/06/1914 – 31/7/1914)

George William Milne (31/07/1914 – 25/10/1921)

Annie Callinan (25/10/1921 – 3/4/1922)

William Amos Blair (3/04/1922 – 20/12/1944)

Thomas Monaghan (1922 – 1923)

Thomas W. Davis (1923 – 1927

Patrick Keenan (1928 – 1938 end of rate books).

Albert Oscar and Edith Jane Briers (20/12/1944 – 15/19/1986)

Francis Joseph and Anne Carolyn; Alan John and Fay Lynette Whelan (15/10/1986 – 2010?)

Woolworths (2010? – )

Possibly due to its closeness to the Olinda Creek Lot 9 was not one of earliest blocks sold and due to the banks of the creek was an odd shape similar as was the lot across the road  – Lot 12 Block 1.

William Hutchinson

With the death of Louis Deschamps in May 1884, William Hutchinson was left with the sole responsibility of selling off the remaining blocks of the Olinda subdivision.

William and Isaac Scott

William Scott was in Lilydale at the time the shire was created in 1872. The ratebooks show his occupation as a bootmaker and he was renting a shop and residence in Main Street from Henry Perrin. By 1874 he was leasing a property from John Hutchinson before in 1881 leasing land from the Crown simply marked as House Olinda this was the home in the eastern bank of the Olinda creek, south side of Main Street below Clarke St. Later this property was owned and occupied by his daughter who married Thomas Beddoe. From these premises Scott operated his bootmaker business as well.

In 1881 he is shown as owning the freehold of Lot 9 block 6 but he did not gain title to the property until 1884. It was probably paid off in instalments. Now as owner he had a house built on the site and became a landlord. The rates went from £1 to £14 in 1885.

The various tenants were: William Darham labourer, William Davey labourer; William henry Smith manager tileworks; Henry Tuck wheelwright, William Cook labourer; William Baynes labourer; Charles McHenry labourer; Charles McCormick labourer; Thomas Rathbone dealer in fire wood; Mrs Chisholm housewife; Margaret Gilson and others. (Ref Shire of Lillydale ratebooks – various)

In 1891, William’s wife Mary died of influenza and was interred at Lilydale Cemetery along with children of the Beddoe family.

William continued to live and work in Lilydale until about 1914 when he gifted the property to Isaac Smith. It appears William moved in with Isaac Scott as both their addresses are Vermont near Mitcham.

Isaac, a commercial traveller did not hold the property for long as it was registered in his name on June 24, 1914 and sold to George William Milne on July 31, 1914 for £130.

Isaac Smith

Isaac Smith, a commercial traveller did not hold the property for long as it was registered in his name on June 24 1914 and sold to George William Milne on July 31, 1914 for £130.

George William Milne

George William Milne was a house and land agent or real estate agent who appears to have operated his business with that of his mother Jessie who was a stationer in Main St, Lilydale. He was later appointed a government valuer. George was born in Portland about 1878.

The Milne family first appeared in the Shire of Lillydale rate books in 1898 when Jessie Milne took over the shop and premises owned by the Colonial Bank in Main Street from stationer Henry Livingston Hotson.

George had a brother Herbert living in Omeo and sisters Ruby (Mrs Reid of Seville); Jessie and Elsie. (Will and Probate documents)

While in Lilydale he was active in the cricket and football clubs as a players of some note; a member of the Bowling and golf clubs and was the secretary of the Lilydale Fire Brigade for 10 years. He was a member of the Lilydale Presbyterian church and on the Board of Management.

With the outbreak of World War I he “had held back from enlisting on account of his poor health. He was forced to change his mind however when a number of callous patriots sent him which chicken feathers to pressure him into enlisting.”

(Lilydale & Its Military History Volume 2 Anthony McAleer pg 48.)

When he enlisted on July 14, 1915 he was 36 years 10 months old and described as of sallow complexion with brown hair going grey. He joined the 12/6ht reinforcements and was quickly promoted to corporal, lance corporal and on arrival in France to Sergeant. He was Sgt Major at the time of his death from war wounds sustained on April 30.

Milne had been with 10 Lilydale men who in 1915 marched off to enlist. By the end of the war only five returned.

(Op Cit pg 163.)

In one of his letters home he wrote:

In the Field 18/3/1918

Arrived back from Paris last night after seven days there. To tell you all I saw and my impressions would occupy much space. All statues and works of art of which the place literally abounds are being protected by sand bagging so from now on sightseers will miss a lot. We had one experience of an air raid in which accepted official figures 100 were killed and suffocated. Also was on the scene, 5 miles from the city, within a few minutes of the great munitions explosion and it is a remarkable thing that so few lives were lost, but destruction of houses was considerable. We find it hard o converse in French as our slight knowledge is not sufficient to carry us through but we have no difficulty in getting through with a little English mixed in.

 (Op Cit pg 172).

Sgt Milne died of his wounds on May 1, 1918 and is buried at Ebblinghem Cemetery near St Omer, France.

(Op Cit. Pg 189, service record and Lilydale Express reports). 

The property was sold by his mother Jeanette (Jessie) as his executrix in 1921.

After the death of her son in 1919 when she moved in with her daughter Ruby Reid who lived at Redholm, Seville.

Annie Callinan

Annie Callinan purchased the property from Jessie Milne for £160 on October 25, 1921 and sold on April 3, 1922 to William Amos Blair for £210.

Annie Callinan is shown in the Shire of Lillydale Rate Books as owning and living on 7 acres of land in Beresford Rd Lilydale. Her occupation was home duties.

William Amos Blair

William Amos Blair purchased the home on April 3, 1922 for £210. Blair was described as a tailor of Lilydale.

In the Shire of Lillydale Rate Books in 1922 his address is c/- Mrs W.H. Noden, Lilydale and later East St Kilda. The property was rented out to various people: Thomas Monaghan (1922 – 1923), Thomas W. Davis (1923 – 1927; Patrick Keenan (1928 – 1938 which is then end of rate books).

Sadly, little is known of William Amos Blair except he married on July 12, 1899 but his wife left him on October 10, 1912. He filed for divorce in Melbourne and received a degree nisi in November 1917. At the time of his death he was 82 years old and is interred in the Presbyterian section of the Fawkner Cemetery.

(Emerald Hill Record, December 1, 1917 pg 3; The Argus November 30, 1917 pg 10; The Advertiser Adelaide November 30, 1917 pg 9)

Albert and Edith Briers

It appears that Blair sold the property to Albert Briers but it’s unclear when it was sold to them for £250. The Briers family said Albert and Edie rented the home for about 10 years before purchasing it which would have been around 1934.The conveyance transferring the property from Blair to Albert Briers had the following as the consideration:

By a Contract of Sale, William Amos Blair tailor formerly of Lilydale but late of 110 Danks St, South Melbourne gentleman sold the land to Albert Oscar Briers for £250. By his Will dated March 19, 1942 Blair appointed Robert Crawford Burr his executor and released and forgave Briers such amount as should be owing under the contract at the time of his death providing Briers paid the probate and estate duties owing on the amount so released. Blair died on May 27, 1943 and at the time Briers owed £177. Briers paid £9/13/4 on probate duties so Blair’s executors granted Albert the land who in turn in consideration of his love and affection for his wife granted the property to Albert Oscar and Edith Jane Briers as joint tenants. However, the conveyance was not registered until December 11, 1953, 12 months after Albert’s death.

For Albert and Edith it was the chance to live in the same street as his parents and brother but in their own home. Edith would have also felt at home as her family, the Gilsons, had also lived in John Street.

Sue (nee Briers) and Vince Bosua continue to Briers family story:

Albert was the third child of David Briers, (Wheelwright) and Julia Briers (nee Julianna (Julia) Susanna Duvoisin) of 49 John Street Lilydale.

Edith was the eldest child of John Gilson (butcher) and Edith Gilson (nee Nichols) of Main Street Lilydale.

Both families had established business in Lilydale, David Briers as Wheelwright at G.R.White’s smithy at the corner Main Street and William Street, while John Gilson had the butcher’s shop in Main Street next to the Forge at corner of Castella Street.

Albert, an experienced horseman, competed in and won the 1911 Yarra Glen and Lilydale Hunt Club Point to Point Steeplechase on Goolyah on 16th August.

Sometime prior to the outbreak of World War 1 the Gilson family, including Edith, moved to Dally Street Northcote. With the outbreak of war Albert and his brother David enlisted into the Australian Army.

Albert joined the 2nd Reinforcement, 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment on 24 October 1914, departing Melbourne on Australian Transport A13 “Katuna” on February, 3 1915 and returning on June 28, 1919. He saw service at Gallipoli, the Suez Canal Zone, Sinai, Beersheba, Jordan Valley, Palestine and Damascus.

David enlisted with 38th Battalion Australian Infantry October 2, 1916 and died at Abbeville France from gassing on November 24, 1918. He left behind a wife Ethel May Briers (nee Lysaght ) of Deschamps St Lilydale and a son Stanley which he never saw. Private Briers was interred at the Abbeville Communal Cemetery, France.

On returning to civilian life Albert returned to his trade as a butcher, working with Edie’s father John Gilson. It is here he met Edie who was born in 1907.

Albert Oscar Briers, 36, (butcher) from 49 John Street Lilydale and Edith (Edie) Jane Gilson, 21, of Dally Street Northcote were married at The Manse, 212 Brunswick Rd, West Brunswick, on December 22, 1928. They settled at Wandin to start their family.

Their first child was born October 16, 1930, Julie May, with their second child John Benjamin (Joe) on February 27, 1932, both born at home. After the birth of John the family moved to Lilydale, renting the property at 58 John Street, where their third child David Robert was born at the Bush Nursing Hospital (Edith’s first hospital visit) on July 2, 1937.

Family moves to John Street

In December 1944, Albert & Edie purchased their first home, being 58 John Street Lilydale where they had rented for nearly 10 years. Here they had settled in, both working at David Mitchell’s Cave Hill Quarry from the period of the 2nd world war. Both could be seen each day peddling their bicycles to and from the quarry.

In his spare time Albert spent many hours tending his extensive vegetable garden, regularly working by lantern light while the family waited to have their dinner. His intense dislike of Englishmen as a result of the war saw him intolerant of most things British and many an English visitor was escorted off the property. Meanwhile Edie collected a menagerie of animals, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, cats and dogs.

The geese she kept up to the 1970s tended to protect the outback toilet and made spending a penny an interesting if somewhat dangerous task.

The three kids took to the move to John Street. Julie, John and David sought employment within the town. Albert went on to manage the original Lilydale Swimming Pool, when the pool was fed directly from the Olinda Creek.

Their last child, Suzanne was born at Lilydale on October 17, 1948.

Julie Briers

Eldest daughter Julie married Noel Ockenden (railway worker) on October 20, 1951. The Ockenden’s moved to regional Victoria for just over a year while Noel worked with the railways.

As a result of emphysema contracted during World War I, Albert’s health deteriorated seeing him spend his last few years bed ridden and Edie the main income earner. Albert succumbed to the disease on November 20, 1952.

John, Edie and Albert’s second child John Benjamin, 21, died not long after on January 20, 1953.

Julie and Noel returned to Lilydale after the deaths of Julie’s father and brother. On returning to Lilydale they set about building a small cottage on the eastern half of the John Street property, enabling them to get a head start to building their family home some years later in Queen Rd Lilydale and supporting Edie and Sue. Their first child, Peter John Ockenden was born October 21, 1953 and their second child, Gayle Maree March 21, 1957, while living at John Street.

David Briers

Prior to Albert’s death, David (Dave) took up an apprenticeship with Lex Davidson as a motor mechanic. Lex, a champion motor car racer had his farm and workshop in Coldstream West Road. This saw Dave making his way out to the farm and actively engaged in Lex’s racing activities, even getting the chance to test out a range of vehicles before getting his license. After completing his time with Lex, Dave continued the family tradition of working at Cave Hill Quarry as his mother and father had.

In his late teens, early 20s Dave became active in the Lilydale Fire Brigade and competed for a number of years at brigade championships, even competing with the team in Tasmania.

Suzanne Briers

Suzanne (Sue), like her parents and brother David attended Lilydale Primary School and then went on to the High School. She recalls her early years at home with widowed mother Edie and the work her mother undertook to support the family. There were the years catering at the RSL when it was located in old Dr Symes House in Main Street, the housekeeping undertaken for a number of Lilydale’s well established families such as Mrs. Lil Brammell of Victoria Rd, Mr & Mrs. Dixon of Anderson St Lilydale, Mr.& Mrs. Henry Nation, Mrs. Nancy Garland of Two Yards Farm, Warburton Highway. To increase her income, Edie also took in ironing, particularly from the various bank managers in the town, spending many hours each night at the ironing board.

Edie and Julie were able to secure long term employment at the St John of God Home in Paynes Rd Wonga Park, Edie running the laundry and daughter Julie doing the seamstress work and assisting her mother in the laundry. Edie and Julie spent 25 years at the home finishing when Edie turned 71 in 1978.

Through all this Edie was shown and known to be a hard worker and friend to many people in the district.

After housekeeping for the various families in the district, Edie was approached to take in a few of the younger female staff working at the telephone exchange in Main St. as borders. This lead to a constant stream of people moving into and out of her home. This then expanded to a broader range of tenants.

In addition to feeding the boarders as part of their lodging, Edie’s brother in law Henry Briers, still living in his parents family home in John Street relied on Edie for a daily meal in his older years. As Henry had not married, Edie was the only remaining relative and Henry became too frail to prepare his main meal. This arrangement remained in place up to Henry’s death in 1978 aged 87 years. Similarly, Tom Thompson, a widower and maintenance man at the St John of God home, regularly had an evening meal with Edie for a number of years. Sue can remember the years of sitting at the dinner table with 5 – 6 people each day as the boarders, Henry and Mr. Thompson sat down with her and her mother to hearty, home cooked meals, fun and banter.

A number of the boarders remained within the Lilydale district.

Julie and Noel, with their two children Peter and Gayle built their new family home in Queen Rd Lilydale and moved out of the cottage at John Street in time for David and his new bride, Valerie Gallaway of The Basin, to move in shortly after their wedding on  October 31, 1959. It was here that Dave and Val also started their family, Pauline, David and John, before building their new family home in Tugan Rd Lilydale.

Once David and Val were settled into their new home it was decided the cottage beside the main house should go. Dave started to pull down the small cottage, but thankfully for Sue, never completed the task.

For a number of years, this small cottage became the residence of the family goat.

By this time Sue had commenced work with Johns Brothers, pottery makers in Croydon. She had started work at age 14 and trained as a Lithographer, decorating crockery ready for final firing. In 1968 she met Vince Bosua through a friend at work and they married in Lilydale on 1 May 1971. Prior to the wedding they set about rebuilding the small cottage beside the main house and extended the building to provide a lounge room and shower. They remained in the cottage until August 1974 when they too completed their new family home in Norris Drive Lilydale, not far from brother Dave and sister Julie. Here they raised two sons Glenn and Christopher.

Up until 1972, John Street stopped at the Olinda Creek. With the building of the causeway over the creek other improvements to the street started to occur. Sewerage was provided in the street and all residents were required to connect. This enabled Edie to have an inside toilet installed and do away with the back yard pan service and for the borders to escape the ever present protective geese. By this time Edie had extended the rear of the house to include a bathroom (with chip heater hot-water service!), laundry and store room. All this was done on her own income.

Later on a new roof was installed to freshen up the appearance of the house.

Some of the boarders Sue can remember are:

Pre 1970

Eddie Perkins – Post Office worker

John Wettenhall and his brother – truck drivers, went on to set up own trucking business

Stan Baltas – Fish & chips shop owner, now owner Lilydale Fish Restaurant.

Arie Bout

Post 1970

Linsey – Ai technician

Terry Mulligan – Shire of Lilydale Engineering office

Mick –


Dianne Desborough – married a local farmer from Steels Creek

Steve McCormack – State Electricity Commission linesman

Mark –

with many more having stayed both long term and short term.

Edie remained at the John Street property until June 1986, still taking the occasional border up to 1982 and being the last resident in this lower part of John Street. She moved to a newly built home in Queen Rd close to her 3 children and their families. By this time the section of John Street between Hutchinson Street and the Olinda Creek had been converted from homes to commercial and industrial sites and it was a dark and lonely location at night.

The property was purchased by Frank Whelan to enable him to build a newer larger printing works on the site.

Francis Joseph, Anne Carolyn, Alan John & Fay Whelan

The final owners, of 58 John St prior to the sale to Woolworths, were the Whelan family of Frank, Anne, Alan and Faye.

On August 24, 1979, they had purchased part of the Hawkey property to the west of the Briers home and built their printing works, Commodore Press on it. Wanting to expand the factory, they purchased Lot 9 from Edith Briers on October 15, 1986 for $117,000 and expanded their printing factory.

Both printers, Alan and Frank knew the value of operating in Gun Alley. Frank had moved to the new Lilydale Express premises when they opened in November 1964, but didn’t like it so worked for several printers in Box Hill for a couple of years before again working with N. W. Gill and Sons at Lilydale.

In 1975, Aland Frank moved their Commodore Press business into premises at the rear of the former Lilydale Express office in Hutchinson Street where they stayed until their own factory was built at 56 John Street.

The Whelan family is well-known in Lilydale. The first family settlers were John and Mary Whelan between 1885 and 1886.

Frank Whelan wrote about his family:

“Dad (William George, or Bill Whelan) was a railway man and we moved around the state with Dad’s job as a signalman and Station Master for a few years until we returned to Lilydale. 

Dad was born in Coldstream at the Park’s Hotel which belonged to my grandmother’s (Ethel May Park) family. 

The Whelan family has been in the Lilydale area for over 100 years. My grandfather (George Heathcote Whelan) was Dame Nellie Melba’s horse groom. My mother (Patricia Corbett) was born in Gordon, near Ballarat. The Corbett family goldmine was located in that area also.

My brother Alan and I have lived in Lilydale almost all of our lives. I was born in Hopetoun in the Mallee and Alan was born in Kyneton. We have been involved in the football club, the swimming club and lots of other organisations. I have had a very long and rewarding association with the Lilydale Fire brigade where I was captain for 30 years and still retain a very active interest and participation in the brigade.

I served my apprenticeship with N. W. Gill and Sons and Alan served his apprenticeship at Asher & Co in Blackburn.

Alan and I are both married to lovely wives. I have three children and 6 grandchildren and Alan has four children. Alan and I along with our wives Anne and Faye were partners in the business. Anne and I still run Commodore Press and Alan and Faye have retired.”

The company is located off Beresford Road, Lilydale and is a medium sized colour and corporate printer and publisher.

The company has been in business for over 30 years and is well known in the area and produces a wide variety of work for a large client base. Offset and digital equipment is used to produce magazines, packaging, corporate and educational stationery and advertising and tourism products.

Frank Whelan received an order of Australia for his services to the Lilydale community and the Lilydale Fire Brigade.

The Whelans continued operating their printing works on the site until about 2010 when they subsequently sold both parcels of land to Woolworths for the entrance into the expanded shopping centre which opened on July 31, 2013.

Woolworths (2011 – )

With the development of the shopping centre on the old Lilydale market site at the rear of the John Street properties expansion was inevitable. The Stockland Shopping Centre opened and expansion plans started soon afterwards. The need for additional access and exit points to relieve the pressure on Hutchinson Street was necessary so a Woolworths company approached the Whelans who sold the property on September 22, 2011. By the end of 2012, the printing works had been demolished and the new access built and opened in early 2013.

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