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Who killed Jim Barclay? By Peter McCullough


HIS is the title of one of a number of books written about the unsolved murders which occurred at Wonnangatta Station in Victoria’s high country in January, 1918. The mystery has close links to the Mornington Peninsula, and Hastings in particular. Who was Jim Barclay?

next decade was spent around Mansfield although by 1897 Jim had moved from gold-prospecting to rural tasks such as sheep shearing and contract work such as post splitting. Ten years later he had leased land in the Howqua valley and trading in cattle had become an important part of his life. Jim was highly regarded in the area for his skills as a bushman.

James Barclay (or “Jim” as he was better known) was born in Hastings on 18 February 1869. He was the fourth child of James and Mary Barclay who had come to Hastings in 1860: he had an older brother (John) and sisters (Jean and “Tossie”), and a younger sister (Molly).

In 1910 life changed for Jim Barclay when he married 19-yearold Lizzie Cantieni who had been living with Jim’s neighbours in Howqua, the Fry family. The civil ceremony held on 23 December was not attended by any member of the Barclay family, possibly due to the fact that Lizzie was seven months pregnant at the time; in fact his family did not find out about the marriage for some years.

James Barclay senior, an immigrant from Scotland, had owned a fishing vessel named Hero and when he purchased land in Barclay Crescent, Hastings, in 1880 he built the family home and named it Heroville. The house was only demolished in 1996.

Lizzie gave birth to a son on 22 February 1911 in Mansfield; christened James he was always known as “young Jim.” The joys of marriage and parenthood were to be short-lived for the couple as Lizzie died of a form of tuberculosis on 18 September, 1911.

Jim Barclay attended school in Hastings and had regular encounters with authority for fighting and a minor case of arson in which the police were involved. Religion played a large part in the family life of the Barclays and was apparently a cause of friction between the devout James senior and his son.

Jim Barclay was a tall man, with a strong physique and a reputation for his skill with horses and cattle. Burdened with a baby and no family within hundreds of miles, he turned to the friends he had made in Mansfield and they, in turn, gave him support and assistance. But by 1914 young Jim had been sent to live with his aunt Molly and her husband (Jack Campbell) at Vermont.

In 1883 Jim left school with a “certificate of a child being sufficiently educated” and worked at Heroville until 1886 when he departed to seek his fortune on the goldfields. Most of the

E ssence


January 2018

In 1912 Jim Barclay first visited the Wonnangatta valley when he called on the Bryce family in his capacity as a cattle trader.

Peninsula Essence January 2018  
Peninsula Essence January 2018  

Peninsula Essence January 2018