John and Janet McHugh
John McHugh and Janet Mclean ... ... John McHugh and Elizabeth May Young ...

John McHugh: at Dulverton

1. Early life
2. John builds a life of his own
3. From Pottery to brick making
4. From Bricks to Coal Mining
5. Brickmaking at Spreyton
6. A return to Launceston

Their seventh child, Alvin who was to later die in the First World War, was born in Ulverstone on 3 Mar 1897 but by later that year the family had moved to Dulverton where John managed the Coal Mines.  Frank Lynch advertised for sale four acres of land along with the Steam Brick and Pipe Works at Gawler in 1899.

The Coal Mines were described in detail in an 1890 Examiner story.

Launceston Examiner Wednesday 12 March 1890 page 3
A Visit to Dulverton Coal Mine. (by our own reporter.)

Yesterday, having a few hours to spare at Latrobe, I took the opportunity of visiting the Dulverton coal mine. With the assistance of Mr Heatley I secured both a buggy and guide, and had a very pleasant drive to the mine. Following the Railton road for about two miles, we turned off into the bush, the roadway thence to the mine being in some places of a rather rough description, giving the idea that in wet weather driving must be the reverse of pleasant. Though in some degree picturesque, the country through which the track passes is mostly fit for nothing but grazing purposes, and not much good even for that. 

The distance from Latrobe to the Dulverton mine is about eight miles. Arrived at our destination my guide introduced me to Mr J. Trotter, who at once expressed his willingness to show me over the workings. Before, however, referring to these it may be as well to remind readers of a few facts concerning the mine. The existence of coal in this locality was first discovered by Mr John Ryan, a farmer, who was prospecting for gold. The land was then held by Messrs Field and Inglis, of Latrobe, and during their proprietorship Mr J. Mackay drove a tunnel some 80ft to prove the coal. Shortly afterwards Messrs S. Sternberg and Co. came into possession of the mine, but beyond a small quantity of coal being carted away little was done to develop it, and they ultimately abandoned it.

Meantime five working miners, Messrs Joshua Mackay, John Kneebone, William Trotter, John Trotter, and Moses Howarth having faith in the prospects of the mine, but lacking sufficient capital, went to work at the Fingal mines until each had saved an adequate sum, when about two years ago they formed themselves into a co-operative company and leased the Dulverton mine. No time was lost in setting to work, and seeing the kind of men they were, the Manager of Government Railways lent them facilities in the way of sidings. Without appealing to Government or to Hercules for assistance, the quintette relied on their own muscle and pluck, and constructed about two and a half miles of tramway, and under considerable disadvantages got out the coal and sent it into the market. It at once found favour, being an excellent domestic coal, and the output has steadily increased month by month. At first the output was only sufficient to supply as far as Longford, but now a considerable quantity is sent to Launceston, and this coal is used in nearly all the leading hotels, and in many private residences. At the time of the coal strike several shipments were also made from Formby to Melbourne.  Last year about 2300 tons were obtained from the mine, and now the output averages about 50 tons a week.

Until last year the partners, all of whom seem to possess the independent "Geordie" spirit, had to pay the ordinary rate for freight, while the Fingal miners were receiving special concessions from the Government railway. However, without solicitation, the concession was also granted to the Dulverton mine. The workings do not call for much description. The tunnel has been driven about seven chains, and as the road is but 3ft 6in high by some 6ft wide, one does not on emerging therefrom feel inclined to use adjectives in praise thereof. It is however quite large enough to work the seam, which is some 17in to 24in wide of splendid coal, the average being about 20in. No timbering is required in the mine, as there is a good clod or clayey roof. It is also very well ventilated by an air shaft. From analysis the coal has been proved to be equal in most respects to the Newcastle coal, but the presence of sulphur renders it rather unsuitable for locomotive engines. For stationary engines or domestic purposes, however, it is even preferred by many to the Newcastle coal, independently of the fact that it is some 8s cheaper per ton.

Near the close of last year one of the partners, Mr Moses Howarth, died, but his interest is still retained by his widow. Altogether about 10 men are employed on the mine, including the proprietors. Most of the miners are married men, and a little village is springing up round the mine. At present there are seven houses and one general store. The houses, which are of weatherboard, have been built by the miners themselves after knocking off work at the tunnel, and they have also built a schoolroom, which is used on Sundays as a church. Services are conducted by the Baptist and Wesleyan denominations, Pastor Hyde and the Rev. Polkinghorne officiating.

The school has 41 scholars on the roll, who are taught by a Government teacher, Mr G. P. Brydon, who courteously showed me specimens of the children's work, and which was of an unusually good description for such a school. The room itself is totally inadequate for the accommodation of so many scholars, but it is hoped "some day" the Government will build one more suitable. The good people residing in this locality are of a most hospitable description, and invitations to break one's fast were as numerous as the people we spoke to. However, I contented myself with a rough and ready but welcome meal of bread and bacon and billy tea, and returned to Latrobe well pleased with the trip.

John McHugh played a leading role in his community.  According to his daughter Lillie he was a firm believer in education and placed a high priority on schooling for his children and when his attempts to have a public school re-opened at Dulverton failed he partly funded a private school teacher.  He was an active leader within his community with interests ranging from the Railton Board of Agriculture, to providing the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery with insect specimens to sponsoring a local private school when the state failed to provide one. When Gordon Keith was born on 11 Dec 1898 at Dulverton his father’s occupation was listed as Potter. 

These two family photos were taken at Dulverton by two travelling cylists who had a camera.  In the first John is seated on the post.

 Various newspaper reports provide insights into the family’s progress:

Launceston Examiner Monday 31 July 1899 page 6

RAILTON, Friday. A very successful concert- was held on Wednesday night at East's Hall in aid of the Dulverton day school. Mr. J. M'Hugh occupied the chair, and explained in a few words the object of the concert. He stated that for some time back they had been trying to get a State-school, but owing to the limited number it could not be done, so they procured the services of Miss M'Kenna as a private teacher. The attendance was good. Mr. M'Mahon, from Launceston, contributed several songs, also a duet with Mr. Dossetor of Devonport, which were highly appreciated. Mr. Fletcher, of Latrobe, sang a song, and also a duet, with Mr. Dossetor. Mr. Dossetor sang several pieces, which were well received. Mr. W. Alford also sang very well, and Miss M'Kenna gave an exhibition of club swinging, which, being a novelty in Railton, was very greatly appreciated.

Launceston Examiner Saturday 19 August 1899 Page 2

Dear Flamingo,--I have read with much pleasure the letters in the "Examiner" from the children, and I thought I would like to write one to you also. I am 12 years old, and I go to Dulverton school and am in the upper third class. I have only been going two years altogether. Miss McKenna is our teacher, and we like her very well. We had a concert last week in in Railton Hall, in aid of our school prizes, which was a great success, and some of the singers came long distances to help. Amongst them was Miss A. M'Mahon from Launceston, and I think it, was very kind, of her to travel from so far away. -I remain, yours faithfully, Andrew J. M'Hugh. -Dulverton, Aug. 10.

[You write a good hand for a child who has been at school for only two years. It was very kind indeed of the singers, to whom you have referred, to travel such long distances in order to help a deserving cause.--Flamingo.]

Andrew, oldest son of John and Elizabeth and aged 12 wrote again:

Launceston Examiner Saturday 3 February 1900 Page 3

Dear Flamingo, I now take the pleasure of writing you these few lines, hoping you are well, as it leaves me at present. Our school closed on December 13, and opened again on January 8. Our teacher went home for her holidays, and I went to Devonport on New Year's Day with a picnic party, and enjoyed myself very much. We went out to the Bluff, and there met Mr. Ockerby, from Launceston, with the Boys' Brigade. They were just packing up the tents to leave for home; there were nineteen boys in camp. I heard that you had got a children's patriotic fund up, and I thought that I would like to give something towards it, so I enclose one shilling.-Yours truly, A. M'Hugh. Dulverton, Jan. 24.

(I trust all my readers will give something, if only a penny each, to the patriotic fund. Remember, the money will go to help thousands of little ones who will be fatherless when the war is over.-Flamingo.)

Launceston Examiner Saturday 15 Sep 1900 Page 2

Dear Flamingo,-I have not written to you before, so I thought I would try. I am eight years old. My birthday is on Christmas Day. I have three sisters and three brothers. I am going to a private school, and am in the third class. I have been going to school for 16 months, and like it very much. I hope some day to be a school-teacher. I also learn music, and like it, but find it very hard to practise. I live near the Dulverton coal mines; my father is manager, and he is now making a tram line and a large rustic bridge over a gorge to the new mine, where he hopes to get a lot of good coal. I was once in the old mine, and it is a very dark, cold place. I was sorry to see the poor men hewing out great lumps of coal by light of a candle; I was glad to get out again in the warm sunlight. Hoping my letter is not too long.-I remain, your little friend, Corrie M'Hugh. September 6. 

(Your birthday falls upon a most memorable occasion. You will find music irksome at first, but you must resolve to adhere to practise, and as the work becomes more advanced, so will it prove interesting.--Flamingo.)

Corrie is John and Elizabeth McHugh’s fourth child

Launceston Examiner Saturday 1 December 1900 page 8

Bush Fires.-On Monday someone set fire to the bush near Caroline Creek, and not far from Dulverton tramway (writes our Railton correspondent), and up to Thursday the flames were very active. Mr. John M'Hugh, the manager, with a number of willing workers, after great trouble, saved the buildings on the Dulverton township. A quantity of fire wood stacked in the bush near the brick works was burnt and a few chains of the tramway damaged. Mr. M'Hugh hopes to have it repaired in a few days. People ought to be careful in lighting fires in the bush, as everything is so dry, and one cannot tell where a fire will stop.

North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times 11 Dec 1900

On Friday evening the private school here so ably conducted by Miss M'Kenna, broke up for the Christmas holidays. There was a large attendance of children, and it was pleasing to note the very marked improvement in their general appearance since last year, and their examination proved that morally, physically and intellectually, they have been carefully looked after.

Through ill health, however, the esteemed teacher is compelled to sever her connection with the district. Her loss will be greatly felt, not only by her pupils, but by the residents generally, with whom she was a general favorite; to this the many valuable farewell presents she has received bear ample testimony. After partaking of a substantial lunch Mr East was requested to make. the presentations, and in a very neat and felicitous speech said he was pleased to present as a special prize for general improvement, given, by Mr H. H. M'Fie, Devonport, a handsome copy of “Young Australia” to Master Andrew M'Hugh. He then presented to Miss Norah Mahoney another nicely bound edition of Sir Walter Scott's 'Tales of a Grandfather,' also for general conduct and improvement. Mr East concluded by hoping Miss M'Kenna would soon be restored to health and wished her every success in the future.

Mr M'Hugh spoke in most eulogistic terms of the great good Miss M'Kenna had done in the district, and how hard it would be to fill her place. He called for three cheers for Miss M'Kenna, which were enthusiastically given. Mr East had thoughtfully gone prepared with lollies, and the scramble that ensued for the following half-hour was something to be remembered. Miss M'Kenna was to leave Dulverton yesterday for Launceston and to sail by the Pateena for Melbourne.

Launceston Examiner Saturday 15 Dec 1900, page 6

-Last Friday evening Miss M'Kenna's private school at Dulverton broke up. There was a large attendance of children, some special prizes for good conduct were presented to Master Andrew M'Hugh and Miss Nora Mahoney. Mr. Jas. East presented the prizes, and also scrambled a large quantity of lollies, which delighted the children. Mr. East and Mr. M'Hugh both spoke well of the work Miss M'Kenna had done among the children. She will be greatly missed in the district. I understand that she has gone to Melbourne, where she is shortly to be married.  

Launceston Examiner Tuesday 18 Jun 1901, page 3

On Friday evening a little girl, daughter of Mr. John McHugh, was nearly drowned. It appears some children went for pipeclay, and on the way home Corrie McHugh slipped into a deep hole. Pansy Castles was the companion and she immediately caught hold of her and pulled her out to the bank at great risk to her own life, as she nearly fell in while doing so. Had it not been for Pansy Castle's presence of mind the child would have been drowned before could have help got, as she was unconscious when rescued. Pansy is only about nine years old, and great praise is due her.

Pansy’s father, John, was a local farmer.  John left the Coal Mine at Dulverton in late 1901 and then worked (not as a partner) for his brothers, McHugh Bros & Jackson to establish a brickworks at Spreyton.

Next: Brick-making at Spreyton