Friday, 17 October 2014

James Bunston

Jimmy Bunston was born in Tarraville, Victoria on January 16th 1858. The surname on the birth registration is Bunsen. It appears that Jimmy spelt his surname with AN. When Jimmy was six months old, Henry and Susan moved from Tarraville to Rosedale. Jimmy was educated in Flynn’s Creek. He attended school until the eighth grade.

Jimmy married Ellen Richardson on November 23rd 1881 in the Church of England at Rosedale. The minister, Rev. C.P. Thomas, presented them with a beautiful heritage bible which is now a treasured family heirloom. Ellen was the daughter of James Richardson. She was born in Castlemaine, in central Victoria on October 26th 1859.

Ellen and Jimmy had three children together: Martha (1882); James (1885) and Phillip (1891).

On December 21st 1882 Jimmy applied to lease 100 acres of land in Tong Bong, near Rosedale, at the time his occupation was as a Carrier. On May 12th 1890 he was granted a lease for 87 acres for a 14 year term. Post and rail fencing valued at £5-14-6 and a dam was added to the property. The scrub and timber was also cleared. On October 15th 1891 he was granted a 14 year lease of another allotment of over 56 acres. This allotment is on the road to Gormandale and is still known as Bunston’s Corner. Under his lease licence he had lived for 14 months on this land and the rest of the time within two miles of the allotment. By 1891 he had completed more than 74 chains of post and rail fencing, a stockyard, a pig paddock, outhouses, two dams and cultivated half an acre (potatoes then two dozen fruit trees). On the lease documents James was described as a carrier of Rosedale.

He bought these crown allotments on September 12th 1898 for 57 pounds and 87 pounds respectively. Later the Bunston family lived at Nambrok. When his father Henry died in 1904 James, who was the informant, listed his address as Carrajung and his occupation as Dairyman. He was also known to have followed in his fathers footstep’s and worked as a teamster.

James’ wife, Ellen, died at Traralgon September 13th 1924. An obituary stated, “Saturday marked the passing of another of our early sturdy settlers, Mrs Jas. Bunstan, sen. She had not enjoyed good health for some time, and recently it was found necessary to remove her to Nurse Pentland’s private hospital. The late Mrs Bunstan was a Miss Richardson …, and a former resident of Nambrok and Carrajung.”

The Traralgon Record stated, “On Saturday Mrs Ellen Bunstan, wife of Mr. J. Bunstan, died at the Traralgon Hospital. She had been ailing from a severe attack of bronchitis for about a fortnight, and was 64 years of age. Everyone who knew her highly esteemed her, and the sympathy of a large circle of friends will be extended to Mr. Bunstan and relatives in their bereavement.”

James was gifted with a wonderful memory. He was able to list the names of the residents of Rosedale in the 1860s and 1870s street by street. He listed the stopping places for teamsters in the early 1860s on the road from Sale to Melbourne. The Rosedale Courier June 16th 1936 published a full column of James’ reminiscences. He describes in detail where Rosedale residents had lived 68 years previously. In the Rosedale Courier August 20th 1914 when James was living at Nambrok, he wrote to the paper, referring to plans to change the name of Kilmany South to honour a Mr. Ingle. It was claimed Mr. Ingle was the first to erect a hotel at this place. James pointed out a Mr. Twyneham was actually the first to erect a hotel. In a later paper his statement was supported by another resident.

One of the local stories about James Bunstan was that towards the end of his life he stayed in an old hut at Bunston’s Corner. In the cold mornings he would walk from there to Gormandale. The lady who owned the store at Gormandale would take him inside and put him in front of her open fire to warm him up.
Reminiscence told how on one occasion he had to transport a motor from Upper Flynn’s Creek to Walhalla. He wrapped it in bark to protect it on the back of his lorry. The trip took six weeks, and the bark had to be replaced several times on the journey.

His obituary in the Rosedale Courier states, “The old Gippslander had many anecdotes and stories of early days. He also remembered many important occasions connected with the progress and development of the province very clearly. And almost invariably his dates and facts were correct…he had an artistic mind. He was fond of poetry, and at times tried his hand at composition. Both topical and patriotic verse came from his pen. He took an intelligent interest in current topics, and up to a few months before his demise, he could read newspapers without the aid of glasses…

Many adventures went to make up his picturesque career. A kick, at an early age, from a bullock broke one of his legs, and several times similar mishaps befell him. Once, not many years ago, when felling timber near Gormandale his leg was injured by a tree. Throughout the night he lay on the ground, calling for help which did not come. Then as the next day advanced, a bush fire swept over him, and left the countryside a blackened ruin. Although famished, exhausted and singed, he crawled through the ashes and embers until at last he reached the road. A settler’s wife heard his cries and came to his aid. This serves to show the mettle, toughness and gameness of a pioneering spirit - even grown old in a modern world. On another occasion “Jimmy”, as he was familiarly known to practically everyone in this part of Gippsland, was “ spread-eagled” by a motor car in Swanston Street, city. This was the old chap’s first visit to the modern metropolis, and naturally he was in awe of the fast moving traffic. This visit cost him a broken leg and a severe shaking. He has now made his last trip; cracked his last whip. He was always a cheery companion; one well respected; and a Gippslander known to a great many people.”

The Rosedale Courier regularly reported on Jimmy’s health near the end of his life. On January 2nd 1940 the correspondent wrote, “We regret to report that the well known veteran of the district Mr. James Bunston is at present seriously ill in the Gippsland Hospital”. On the January 9th 1940 it was stated that “Mr. James Bunston has made a remarkable recovery in the Gippsland Hospital and left that institution. He has not returned to Gormandale but is far from well”. On February 13th 1940 it was reported that “Mr. James Bunston has returned to the hamlet and taken up residence with Mr. Joseph Batson. The old timer is a very sick man and finds difficulty getting about.”

Jimmy died on March 11th 1940. Both he and Ellen are buried in the Rosedale Cemetery.


  1. don't you just love those old obituaries that hold so much information. The old pioneers were certainly made of tough stuff. Interesting post Georgie.

  2. thanks Kerryn. you certainly got the life story. i just wish i had a photo of Jimmy or Ellen to go with the story.