skip to content

Rediscovering Ginninderra:
William Winter

Born: 1878; Died: 1947; Married: 1.Lily McFeeters 2.Helena Blewitt

Father - John Winter [1833-1928]

William Winter was the seventh of eight children of John and Jemima Winter. John Winter migrated to Australia from the town of Haddenham, in Buckinghamshire, England. John was a 'pound' assisted immigrant who travelled out on the Blenheim arriving at Port Jackson on 5th July 1855:

'John Winter aged 22 farm labourer, Native Place Adenham [sic], Bucks, parents Joseph and Patience living Addenham [sic]. Religion Wesleyan. Reads & Writes, no relatives in the colony. Health good, no complaints. Arrived on the ship Blenheim on 5.7.1855'. [Assisted Migrants AONSW Ref 4/4945 Reel 24678].

After first going to 'Duntroon' John made his way to Kentucky, in the New England district of NSW, where he gained employment as a 'mower', presumably a cutter of grass, crops or pastures. After a few years in that area, John made his way back to Canberra.

He married Jemima McPherson on 13th June 1861 (Ref. 2738/1861) in St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Queanbeyan:

'John Winter, farmer, married Jemima McPherson at Queanbeyan on 13.6.1861. His residence shown as Canberry Side Co. of Murray and hers as Dungaroon Co. of Murray. Witnesses were John McPherson and Catherine McPherson and Rev Alexander Shearer Pennycook officiated.
[Reconstructed register of Marriages St Stephen's Presbyterian Church Queanbeyan].

The land he selected around 1859 was 'Red Hill' (later called 'Gungaderra'), on the Wells Station Road. John Winter added to 'Red Hill' until he eventually owned nearly 1,000 acres. In Yemen's Directory of landholders of NSW for 1900, John Winter of 'Red Hill' is recorded as growing wheat, maize, oats and potatoes. He died in 1928.

Obituary – John Winter

'The late Mr. John Winter, who died recently aged 96 years, was an old Canberra identity. He came there in 1855 to work for the late George Campbell, of Duntroon. After working there for some time he and his brother William (who had just arrived from England) carried their swags to Armidale.

After a few months of travel Duntroon was again reached in 1859, and at the end of that year Mr. Winter secured a farm on the Spring Bank Estate, the property of Dr. Hayley. This farm was on the Black Hill side of the Commonwealth Bank. He held this farm for three years and had the good fortune to harvest a record crop in 1863. That year he secured 960 bushels of wheat off 16 acres.

He then took up a selection at Red Hill [north Canberra, NOT the present suburb of that name], Robertson's Free Selection Act having come into force a short time before. Here all his children were born, excepting the eldest, who was born on the farm at Spring Bank. At the time of his death his children, grand-children and great-grandchildren numbered 101. About the year 1918 he left the Queanbeyan District, and lived with his third daughter, Mrs. S. Shumack. He passed away quietly a few minutes before midnight on 26th September, 1928. [Yass Courier, Thursday 15 Nov 1928, p 6]

William Winter [1878-1947]

William Winter, the seventh of eight children of John and Jemima Winter, was born on the 4th October 1878 (Ref 20999/1878) at 'Red Hill'. As a young boy of nine William had an accident, impaling himself on harrows while trying to jump over them. The resulting damage to his hip led to one leg being shorter than the other, causing him to limp for the rest of his life. Despite this disability, he was expected to pull his weight around the farm. At about this time he finished school and worked full time on the farm and driving bullock teams. Later, the Winters became well known for their threshing and chaff-cutting business.

'Reported that Winter's two steam threshing machines are busily engaged in the neighbourhood'.
[Wizard's Notes Post 24.1.1895]

William worked as an 'erecting engineer' in connection with sheep shearing machinery, also as an expert shearer and oil engine driver for the Federal Sheep Shearing Company from 1905 to 1910. Around 1911William and his brother John bought a chaff cutter which they hired out around Canberra originally and then later in the Yass-Gunning district. They could earn a year's wages in the six month season.

John, his father, had his land resumed in 1915 by the Federal Government, as part of the new Federal Capital Territory. He received £3,600 in compensation. John retired to his daughter Sarah's property 'Ravensworth', Singleton, NSW until his death in 1928. The compensation money was given to the boys, Joseph, John and William, to 'help them make a start in life'. William is believed to have eventually paid back the money given to him by his father.

William had taught himself how to play the violin and played in a family band at dances. He also taught himself 'copperplate' writing and was well known for his ability to make and fix anything.

He moved to Yass in 1915 and bought the property 'Kirkton' adjacent to 'Kenilworth Station' (a couple of miles from the town). 'Kenilworth Station' was owned by his sister Bella and her husband George Shumack. He lived at Kirkton with his first wife Lily McFeeters whom he had married on 10th Sept. 1902 (Ref. 7985/1902) on his in-law's property 'Cattle Camp' at Jeir:

William Winter, farmer, 23, born Canberra, son of John Winter and Jemima Winters nee McPherson married Lily McFeeters, 20, daughter of Charles McFeeters farmer and Louisa Elizabeth McFeeters nee Buckmaster on 10.9.1902 at the house of Mr C McFeeters Cattle Camp Jeir. Rev Wm Michael Smith officiated and the witnesses were David Winter and Ada McFeeters.
[Queanbeyan Presbyterian Church Register of Marriages]

William and Lily had five children - Amos, Sidney, Marcella (Marcie), Alma and Elena (Lena). The house had servants including two sisters from Cooma as housemaids to help Lily. The family led a very comfortable life with William often away chaff cutting. Sadly Lily developed cancer of the bowel which eventually claimed her on 30th April 1917 (Ref. 5814/1917).

William continued to live with the children at Kirkton, where he became romantically involved with one of the maids named Helena Blewitt (whose sister also worked as a maid). She became pregnant and fled to Sydney. William followed her to Sydney and married her on 22nd Sept. 1920 (Ref. 10931/1920). She then gave birth to Vida on 2nd November 1920 in Silverwater, Sydney. They then moved back to 'Kirkton' and Helena took over the management of the household. Amos, the eldest son was sixteen, Sid thirteen, and the three girls Marcella eleven, Alma nine and Elena five.

Around this time Alma, aged nine, was struck on the leg by a stone thrown while playing 'rounders' at school. Antibiotics were not available at this time and it became infected eventually requiring bone grafts. Over a number of years and unsuccessful treatments she developed gangrene and was taken to Lewisham hospital in Sydney to have her leg amputated below the knee, this however was unsuccessful and another amputation was performed above the knee, which finally stopped the infection. She was sixteen by this time.

William owned two sawmills, one at Harden and the other at Bethungra. He had an accident at one of the mills and lost two fingers on his left hand (little and ring fingers) which finished his violin playing days.

On 7th August 1922 Mavis was born, and in that year William sold 'Kirkton' to William Edward Shumack. The family moved from 'Kirkton' to 53 Prince Street, Junee when Vida was four and Mavis two. The sale was well-timed:

Land values in the Yass district continue on the upgrade. That part of old Kenilworth Estate owned by Mr W Winter and about three miles from the town has just been sold to Mr W Shumack at over £14 per acre which is easily a record for grazing lands in the district. A few years ago the Kenilworth land was sold by the Terry Estate for £5 an acre. [Queanbeyan Age 8.8.1922]

The property in Junee consisted of four blocks backing onto Duke Street. It had numerous sheds and workshops in which William tinkered; fixing things and making things. He was very skilful with his hands. The house still stands today at 53 Prince Street, Junee. He traveled around the Junee district harvesting wheat with his sons Amos, John, and Sid and his brother John Winter ('Jack'). On 3rd September 1927 a son, Clement, was born, giving much pleasure to William who was now 49 years old.

The family home burnt down under suspicious circumstances (a primus exploded) when Clem was just a baby. William was almost killed trying to get the grand piano out of the house. Marcie, trying to save Sid's new suit which had money in it, collapsed in distress and some believe this triggered her nervous condition. William owed money to a Mrs Pratt, but the insurance money cleared this debt. William and his sons rebuilt the house with timber from the mills as form-work, and made the walls out of concrete.

William was well known for his generosity to his family and employees. his brother David was sickly and often needed help to support his family, which William did. He built Amos a house as a wedding gift in 1928, with wood from the sawmills. He also helped Amos set up a garage selling oils and fuel which was not successful however.

When the Depression struck in the 30's work became scarce. Also diesel engines were taking over from steam engines. William and John sold the chaff cutter and went back to being shearing engineers. They competed for work, with John often undercutting William.

In 1936 Helena left William and the kids and took up with the Carter brothers (Tom and Leo). She worked as a cook in the Junee Hotel for a while, then Goulburn, where one of the brothers went to Jail. This was a very sad time for the family. Clem was nine, Mavis fourteen. Vida, who was about sixteen years old took on the responsibility of managing the household. She also started work at Keasts General Store doing very well, eventually earning a male's wage (£3 extra). During the war however she lost the job and at the age of twenty-one decided to move to Sydney and get a job at McIlwraith's general store in Harris Park, Sydney, where Mavis was already living.

Marcella (Marcie) was twenty-seven and had a housekeeping job with Wiley Smiths in Junee. She however was having seizures and pain, and was diagnosed as having a 'nervous disorder'. Mavis took her for shock treatment at Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic in Lilyfield, Sydney, which did not help her condition. Mavis met Bob Murray and stayed in Sydney with a girlfriend. Marcie was unable to work for the rest of her life but could not get a pension until years later. Elena (Lena) suffered from a severe speech impediment from birth and was also unable to work.

William himself moved to Sydney in 1941, where he boarded in Great Buckingham Street, Redfern, in a boarding house owned by a friend and run by Mr and Mrs. Tucker. He worked at Clyde Engineering as an inspector as part of the war effort. William was sixty-three at this stage and suffering from heart problems. The heavy work at the Engineering yards didn't help his condition.

Vida went back to Junee at Easter in 1942 to visit her siblings and came back with sad tales of the girls Lena and Marcie being unable to cope, and suggested to William that he move them and Clem to Sydney. William duly rented a house in Westmead. Alma worked firstly at the wool mills and then at printeries in Parramatta and Ashfield. Clem (thirteen), Marcie and Lena were at home. Clem can remember the Japanese mini subs were in Sydney Harbour at this time.

In 1944 Mavis married Robert (Bob) Murray and two years later Vida married Donald Kennedy (Ken) Anderson. Clement married Aileen Birchell in 1948.

William died at home in Westmead from his heart disease on 7th October 1947. His Will was invalid because it had not been signed properly, causing some difficulties. Amos was executor. The children's share of the estate, £74.9.2 each, was used to buy a house for Marcie, Lena and Alma, being unable to support themselves. It was across the road in Westmead and put in Alma's name. Clem set up a fish shop in the front of the house but war rationing led to its failure.

Obituary – William Winter

Mr William Winter who died at Westmead was buried at Yass last Tuesday afternoon. Deceased who was 68 years of age was born at Red Hill Ginninderra Canberra. In his youth he was a keen cricketer. For years the deceased, his late brother John and the only surviving member of the family, Mr David Winter of Yass, operated a chaff plant between Yass and Canberra, In those days there was much more farming than there is now in the area and the three brothers used to be kept busy six months of the year. The Federal Capital Territory was then largely farming land. They then went to Junee district and carried on the same work. For the duration of the war deceased who was a first class mechanic and shearing expert was engaged in war work as an inspector of the Clyde Engineering Works. The late Mr Winter lived a useful life and could turn his hand to a variety of skilled work. His health broke down after the war and for the last two years he had been living in retirement at Westmead. He was married twice. His first wife was Miss McFeeters of Jeir and of that marriage two sons and three daughters survive. They are Messrs Amos (Sydney), Sidney (Junee), Misses Marcie, Alma and Lena (Sydney). Of the second marriage one son and two daughters survive, Mr Clem Winter (Sydney) and Mrs Bob Murray and Mrs Ken Anderson of Sydney.
[Yass Tribune Courier. Queanbeyan Age 14.10.1947]

[Researched by Anthony J. Winter. Son of Clement Winter (based on oral history from Vida and Clem)]

Related Photos

< Rediscovering Ginninderra