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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Catherine 'Kitty' Rolfe

Born: 1867; Died: 1952; Married: Robert Corkhill

Catherine 'Kitty' Rolfe was the last of the four children born (in 1867) to Edmund Rolfe and his first wife, Margaret [Logue], who died after giving birth to Catherine.

Robert Corkhill was born in 1863 on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. In 1883 at age 20 he sailed to Australia and travelled to the Limestone Plains now known as Canberra. He was employed as a groom for the Campbell estate of Duntroon where he remained for many years. His wage was 10 shillings for a six-day working week, and amongst his chores was the collection of rations for Duntroon from Queanbeyan.

In 1893 Corkhill married Catherine (Kitty) Rolfe and moved to a cottage, on the site of the present day National Library of Australia. This property on the south side of the Molonglo River was originally acquired by Sydney merchant, pastoralist and politician Robert Campbell in 1830. The northern tip of this land was leased to Catherine's grandparents Bryan and Margaret Logue who had managed the Duntroon dairy since 1845. In 1857 the Logues and their family moved to the cottage. It was a small, lime-washed, four-room slab house with corrugated iron roof. Adjacent was a two-room detached slab kitchen and an open-sided slab cart shed. Bryan died in 1860 and Margaret remarried John Crinigan in 1863. When Catherine Corkhill (nee Rolfe) was born at Springbank in 1867, her 24 year-old mother died soon after the birth, and Catherine was brought up at the slab cottage by her grandmother, Margaret Crinigan.

In a 1900 directory, Corkhill was listed as a grazier, dairyman and wheat grower. Over 10 years, he and his wife raised 10 children at the cottage that was also home of Margaret and John Crinigan till their deaths in 1899 and 1904.

Commonwealth acquisition of the Duntroon estate in 1913 prompted the family to move downstream into the Yarralumla dairy on land formerly leased from Frederick Campbell as part of the Yarralumla estate. There they occupied a two storey home built in 1889 that they renamed Riverview. For nearly 50 years the Corkhill Dairy supplied milk to Canberra until the herd of 175 cattle were auctioned in 1961. Both properties occupied by the Corkhills were eventually covered with water when Lake Burley Griffin was formed in 1964.

Catherine Corkhill died in Canberra in 1952 at the age of 85 and was buried at Queanbeyan. Aged 91 years, Robert Corkhill died in Sydney in 1954 and was buried at Queanbeyan. They were a distinct feature of Catholic life in Canberra by helping to raise funds for church buildings in Queanbeyan and the new parish of Canberra in 1928. They were also renowned for charity in offering work and feeding the needy during the years of the Great Depression.

Many Corkhill descendants are still prominent in the Canberra community. Corkhill Street is located 300 metres north of pasture occupied by the Corkhills 1893-1913.

References

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