William Dwyer (1860-1903) and Margaret McCraith (1861-1943)

William Dwyer was born on 18 June 1860 at Donnybrook, the third child and first son of James and Mary Dwyer. Margaret Constance McCraith was born in 1861 at Keilor, Victoria, the fourth child and third daughter of Michael McCraith and Elizabeth Beazley. Both were from large families, with William having eight siblings and Margaret thirteen.

William was raised where he was born, in the Kalkallo/Donnybrook area. Perhaps one of William’s earliest memories was the drowning death of his older sister Jane when he was 4 years of age. Margaret’s family moved from the Keilor/Essendon area to the goldfields town of Castlemaine, about 125 kilometers from Melbourne, soon after Margaret’s birth.

By the mid-1880s, both William and Margaret had moved to Melbourne, presumably where they first met. In August 1885 William was living in Dryburgh Street, North Melbourne and was employed as a butcher. Margaret lived in LaTrobe Street and was employed as a hat maker. They married at St. Mark’s Church of England in Moor Street Fitzroy on 29 August 1885. This may have been Margaret’s choice of church, since her mother was Church of England and her father Catholic. Both of William’s parents were Catholic.

William and Margaret had only two children:

  1. Andrew James Joseph our grandfather (1888-1948)
  2. Mary Veronica (1890-1932) – Mary was familiarly known as “Sis” or “Sissy”. She married Vivian Franklin (1888-1963) in 1911 and they had one confirmed child together, Irene Margaret. There is no record in the electoral rolls for Mary and Vivian after 1914, when they were living at 14 Baillie Street, North Melbourne. Mary died in a hospital for the insane in 1932 with an inquest giving her cause of death as “general paralysis insane”. Another researcher who has viewed the inquest papers believes that neglect by the nursing staff caused or contributed to her death.

Billy Dwyer

The photo above was provided by Annette Regan, a great grand daughter of James Dwyer and Mary McRedmond. She believes the photo to be of our ancestor William, who was a brother of Annette's grandmother Ellen. "Billy Dwyer" was already written on the photo when it was first shown to Annette. However it is faintly possible that the photo is of Ellen's nephew William, born in 1877.

By the time Andrew was born William’s occupation had changed from butcher to carter. His future daughter-in-law Ethel Ramsdale wrote late in her life that he “…used to work on the wharves in Melb[ourne], as transport worker. I believe he was a very big man…”.  William Dwyer the carter seems to have had a brush with the law in 1890:

Peculiar case of alleged larceny
Detective-sergeant Cawsey last night arrested a man named William Dwyer on warrant which charged him with stealing five cast-iron pipes, valued at £15, the property of the Minister for Water Supply. The accused is a carter by occupation, and the charge is that while the repairs were being effected at the Queen’s-bridge, which were tendered necessary by the bursting of the water main on the 9th inst., he drove down to the spot and coolly loaded five of the iron pipes on to his dray. These, it is alleged, he broke up and disposed of to a foundry in Elizabeth-street for £7 10s. He will be brought before the City Court today.  [Argus, Wednesday 16 July 1890, p.9]

The outcome of this opportunistic case of pilfering is not reported.

It may also be that William was a reported victim of crime:

Martha George was acquitted on a charge of stealing a purse and £1 from William Dwyer, a labourer [his occupation certainly by 1903], at the corner of Bourke and William streets, on the night of the 24th April. [Argus, Thursday 9 May 1895, p.7]

At least until 1888 the Dwyer family lived in Dryburgh Street, but by 1903 they had moved to Carlton. In June 1903 William was admitted to the Melbourne Hospital on the corner of Lonsdale and Swanston Streets, and on 18 June he died at the hospital aged 43 years. The cause of death was given as phthisis (archaic medical term for pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease) and exhaustion. He was buried at Melbourne General Cemetery on 19 June. On 22 June Margaret placed this notice:

MRS. W. DWYER desires to thank the many friends for their kindness, also Sister Grant and Nursing Staff of No. 20 Ward, Melbourne Hospital, for their untiring attention during the illness of her late husband, William Dwyer, 382A Lygon Street, Carlton.  [Argus, Monday 22 June 1903, p.1]

At the time of William’s death, Andrew was 15 years of age and Mary 13.

In 1907 Margaret, then aged 46, married William John Bedford (1851-1931). Bedford was a lamplighter, employed by the local council to light the gas street lamps using a pole. Bedford had previously been married to Fanny Elizabeth Conabeer (from 1874 until her death in 1895) and had four children by her, Elizabeth (b.1874), William (b.1877), Edward (b.1879) and Frederick (b.1881). William Bedford did not have any children with Margaret.

Margaret and William Bedford initially lived at 21 Howard Street, North Melbourne, with the seventeen-year-old Mary Dwyer living with them. By 1914 they were living at 3 Purcell Street, North Melbourne, but by 1916 they had moved next door to 1 Purcell Street, and Mary and her husband Vivian Franklin appear to have moved into 3 Purcell Street. By 1919 Margaret and William were living at 361 Napier Street Fitzroy, but by 1921, with Bedford now a pensioner, they had moved to Brown Street Castlemaine, Margaret’s childhood home town. After Bedford’s death in 1931 Margaret lived in Wheeler Street Castlemaine.

Margaret’s grandson, William Dwyer (our father), remembers only meeting her once, when she visited her son and his family in Sydney. William recalled her as a “very imposing, though aged…lady”.  He also recalled:

…her giving us a full throated version of the old favoured air “Annie Laurie” in the family room (as it would now be called) in Bridge Road , GLEBE. She had been, I was given to understand, a more than competent singer and theatre performer in Victoria in her younger days…

Margaret died at Castlemaine in 1943. In the Government Gazette of 26 January 1944 (PDF - 2.1mb) there is a notice on page 10.


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