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Rediscovering Ginninderra:
Alexander George Rochford

Born: 1841; Died: 1924; Married: Elizabeth [Rolfe]

Alexander George Rochford

Alexander was the son of William Rochford and Catherine O'Shea from Bannow, County Wexford – and the second of their sons to journey to Australia, brother John arriving a few years before Alexander, who came to Australia with his parents blessing to join his older brother. Alexander arrived in Melbourne on the 'Queen of the South' on August 8th 1863, and is recorded in the passenger list as 'twenty two years old, single, a labourer of Irish extraction'. In the footsteps of his brother, he set off for Queanbeyan – covering the whole journey overland by foot! Reunion with John was rather short-lived, as John died in 1871, leaving behind a wife (Catherine nee Cane), and four children.

Alexander had attended school at nearby Blackhall. A grand-daughter, Mrs Marie O'Connor, inherited a prayer book that was given to Alexander before his departure which bears the signature 'A.P.Long' his teacher.

The year after John's death, Alexander married Elizabeth Rolfe, whose brother James and his wife Bridget owned the Jeir property 'Bedulluck'. Another Rolfe sibling, Mary Ann Rolfe ('Auntie Doll'), became a de facto member of the Rochford's 'Forest View' household, helping to rear the young family, and maintaining home life after Alexander and Elizabeth had passed away.

After marrying, Alexander and Elizabeth continued living at 'Yarralumla' station, where Alexander was employed, but moved towards Uriarra when better accommodation became available. By 1881 they had five children, all born at 'Yarralumla', after losing infant son James in a drowning accident. They were to have two more after selecting land and moving to Jeir:

Jane Mary (1868-1949)
William (1873-1921)
John (1875-1933)
James (1877-1878)
Alexander Gregory (1879-1966)
George (1881-1969)
Ernest (1885-1954)
Catherine (1887-1971)

In 1881 Frederick Campbell acquired 'Yarralumla' from Augustus Gibbes, and gave Alexander tenancy of a block of land in conjunction with his position as head dairyman. Their home at this stage was downstream from the confluence of Weston Creek and the Molonglo river. In 1883 Alexander selected 640 acres of his own in the district of Jeir. Campbell was so impressed by his efficiency and honesty that he supported this venture financially, in turn being granted a mortgage over 100 acres of the land. The property was named 'Forest View', and a cottage built later on was named 'Glenall'.
Arriving at 'Forest View' in 1883, the first and urgent task, which was undertaken by Alexander, was to build a home. Building materials – slabs for walls, stringy bark for the roof, stone for a fireplace, were mostly obtained on their block. Windows or shutters was scarce, as was hessian lining for roofs. In the early days at 'Forest View' the family had to collect water from Gooroomon Ponds, around two miles away. Later, wells were sunk, greatly cutting that toil, and making a vegetable garden possible.

Elizabeth was a keen gardener, establishing a garden and orchard of two acres. Beside the vegetables, fruit such as apples, quinces, plums, pears, apricots, cherries, grape and vines were planted. Hares, rosellas, and flying foxes were kept at bay by Elizabeth with the aid of a .22 rifle.

However humble, 'Forest View' became a family home in the fullest sense. It was open house to all who passed by, to share what they had available in food, the warmth of the fireside and a friendly chat. Bonds of close friendship and mutual assistance developed amongst the early settlers and were maintained by their descendants. Neighbours included Jacob Blundell to the south at 'Willow Farm', and beyond that were David Boyd, Pat and Frank Coulton, David Rule, and Samuel Southwell. Other neighbours were John Baines to the west, and Maitland to the north, while across the Yass-Queanbeyan road were the O'Rourkes, Jeremiah and Thomas McAuliffe, Richard Jordan and Walter Munday.

Fortuitously, Glenwood Public School opened just two weeks after the Rochfords settled at Forest View, less than a mile away. Jane Mary, William and John joined other first timers – many of them children of their neighbours mentioned above, and were followed by other Rochford children. The school continued until 1935, but the building was later removed to 'Forest View' where it was used as a school house again for the children of Alexander Gregory Rochford and other local children, with the name 'Bennett's Creek' school [almost certainly a Subsidised school, where an allowance was paid to parents, who had to provide their own teacher and building.]

A catholic family, the Rochfords joined the community effort associated with construction of St Francis Xavier church which opened in April 1910. Other catholic families who settled in the same district as the Rochfords included Hibberson, McAuliffe, O'Rourke, Rolfe, Cavanagh, Ryan, Coulton, and Blundell, who formed the nucleus of a Catholic community. Several of the Rochford sons were fine sportsmen and active members of the local cricket and football teams.

Elizabeth passed away at 'Forest View' in January 1924, and Alexander followed a few months later in November 1924. On the death of their parents two of their sons, Alexander Gregory ('Greg') and George, took on the 'Forest View' farm , as well as undertaking share farming with Alf Rule on the Murrumbidgee Flats, in wheat growing on Cavanagh properties at Mulligan's Flat and at the 'Tea Gardens in Ginninderra. This was followed by a notable period of wheat growing on a share basis with Athol and Keith Kilby on Block 13 at BElconnen, and later with Henry Zouch and Ian Baird at Weetangera. 'Rochford Brothers' produced the Territory's prize-winning wheat crop in 1937, on what is now the Belconnen golf course.

When George married Alice Julia Curran (Williamsdale) he built a home for them,'Glenall', on the 'Forest View' property; it was destroyed by a devastating bushfire in 1944. It was while living at Glenall in 1927 that George discovered the burned body of neighbour Jacob Blundell of 'Willow Farm'. Brother Alexander ('Greg')and his family continued living at 'Forest View' up until 1956 when, after 73 years, the link with the Rochford family was finally broken. Forest View was purchased by James Essol Coulton, a descendant of that neighbouring pioneer family.

[Edited extracts from Rochford J (1982)]

Death of Mr. Alexander Rochford.

On Wednesday, 25th ultimo, there passed away at his residence, 'Forest Veiw', Jeir, one of the oldest and roost respected identities of the district in the person of Mr. Alexander Rochford, at the age of 84. Deceased was born in Ireland and after spending a short time in England- came to this country as a young man. He first settled in Queanbeyan district and was a tenant of Mr. Fred. Campbell (late of Yarralumla), who always speaks of deceased in the highest terms. Eventually he took up land at 'Forest View', Jeir, where he toiled incessantly, as the land there at that time was almost a dense scrub. He was known as thoroughly upright and honourable in all his dealings with his fellow-men, and was a faithful adherent to his church. His wife pre-deceased him ten months ago, and he leaves a family of six, two of his sons being in the police force. The remains of the deceased were interred in the Catholic portion of the Queanbeyan cemetery on Friday, 28th ult. [Yass Courier, Monday 1 December 1924, page 2]

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