About This Story

This is a story about the Standish family that settled at Benalla, in rural Victoria.

Word always was that we were of Irish descent. And there were those stories about the Standish family of Benalla giving support to the Kelly gang - fresh horses and the like.  It was even said that Ned Kelly himself had dined at Brookvale.

Broken River, Benalla (1907).  State Library of Victoria.

Broken River, Benalla (1907). State Library of Victoria.

So it was with some dismay that we confronted early evidence that we'd actually come from Lancashire. The Standishes were big in Lancashire, orbiting around Duxbury Hall near Chorley. Myles Standish - who captained the Mayflower which took the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620 - hailed from this family of Standishes. 

So why the enduring stories about an Irish connection?  Well, turns out we did come mostly from Ireland, on the Sea Queen (1844), the SS Great Britain (1852), the James Brown (1853), and the Hibernia (1854), all of which sailed to Port Phillip. 

Melbourne, Port Phillip in 1840, the year 12-year-old Martha Little arrived with her family from Ireland. By Robert Hoddle. State Library of Victoria.

Melbourne, Port Phillip in 1840, the year 12-year-old Martha Little arrived with her family from Ireland. By Robert Hoddle. State Library of Victoria.

The Standishes of Co. Tipperary, the Littles of Co. Cavan, the Woodwards of Worcester, and the Morris family from Pembrokeshire were among the first wave of European settler families to make their homes in country Victoria. Here are some threads of their stories.

Several generations of Standishes came from Knockballymeagher, near Roscrea, in Co. Tipperary.

Several generations of Standishes came from Knockballymeagher, near Roscrea, in Co. Tipperary.