George Byrne and Annie McKenzie


Birth and childhood

George William Byrne was born 1879 Harrow (3218). He was the son of James Byrne and Mary Jane Burgess. His parents settled at Hopevale near Hopetoun in 1894. Hopevale was named by J H Barnes in 1891, during a journey where he passed through Edenhope - hence the hope.

Annie Margaret McKenzie was born 1884 Dunmunkle (Minyip) (26337). She was the daughter of Paul McKenzie and Margaret Robertson, pioneers of the Hopevale district. She was around 5 when her mother died in 1889.

The earliest story of Annie is when her sister Sarah and friend Charlotte Edson took her to the doctor at Warracknabeal to have her tonsils out. On arrival the doctor took a sharpened teaspoon and while Sarah and Charlotte held Annie down he proceeded to scrape the tonsils out. Annie writhed and wriggled so much the doctor growled at the other two for not holding her tightly enough. After the op they put her in the gig and went home again.



George and Annie married in married 1904. The picture of George at right was taken at the Hopevale Rifle Club in 1906 - he would be 27.

A George Byrne selected Allotment 10 at Yaapeet in 1898, but it is not clear if this was our George. The couple took up a Crown Lease at Gaalanungah near Yaapeet near Rainbow (Lot 1 off Hopetoun rd) in 1924 which they named Roselyn. The house was a typical Australian farm house, wooden with a corrugated iron roof, lace veranda edging and red etched glass set each side of the front door. The laundry was outside and the toilet was a long drop out under the peppercorn tree. Annie cooked on a range and an old black kettle hung over in the large white washed fire place. There was always plenty of delicious food. At times the Byrne family had a maid to help in the house.

Local historian writes of Yaapeet:

"You have to be a bit careful when you go up to Yaapeet that you don't come back with one leg about a foot longer than the other. This is fair dinkum. They'd be the biggest mob of practical jokers and humorists you'd ever find"

People remember Annie as a well liked person who was full of fun and worked long hours running the home for her large family.

George was an involved citizen and served as on the West Riding of Karkarooc Shire Council and was President from 1927 - 1935. He was also a Lodge Past Master at Rainbow in 1920. Karkarooc is a corruption of Karakarooc from the Aboriginal tribes near the Yarra. Karakarooc was the fire maiden, daughter of Bunjil a fine, big woman. She taught man how to find food and brought the first fire stick to light camp fires. An official gave the name to Karkarooc. The County was created 29th May 1896.

George and his brothers Wattie, a ruck, and Herbert played football. The first Yaapeet grand final was played at Gaalunungah Hall grounds against Rainbow. George was the first president of the Yaapeet Football Club in 1910. In 1914 the club met at T B Store and decided to join the Rainbow District. Much later, one of George's grandsons played at Yaapeet, but who was this?

Of course there was lots of contact with the rest of the family. Mick (Keith), son of James Henry (Georges older brother) came to stay with his Aunt and Uncle, worked at Fishers and played football for Yaapeet after his father died.

In later years George and Annie's grown up children would travel from Melbourne with their families to holiday at Roselyn and the grandchildren have fond memories of their time there. The house was always bustling with cooking and cleaning and the girls would also go out to the paddocks to help with the harvesting (see picture above of lunch break on the farm). The farm yard was littered with agricultural equipment which made excellent play stations for the children. There was fun as well as work - one NYE some practical joker white washed the poor dog.

Gaalunungah school was opened in 1908 in a local hall. The hall was a corrugated iron building lined with fine boards and had double doors at the front and side and a stage at the rear. It was draughty. After 18 months the new school was built with a big classroom, storeroom and porch. Gaalunungah operated until 1947 and all that remains to day is a ruined chimney and a plaque. A list of pupils includes Charles and Norma. The records at the school include a Rita Byrne but no one knows who she was - she may have lived at the Fisher's 1 mile from the school.

Children often came to school in a gig. Around 1918 to 1927 the Petschel family had a 3 seater gig drawn by Sailor the horse who was a bit stroppy and often bit the children. They took 11 kids in it. The Henmans would come to the Petschels and then they would drive across the paddocks to collect Norma, Doreen Sylvia and Len Byrne. Perhaps the names of the children changed as time went on. An allowance or 4 pence a day was allowed from 1914 - and Doreen and Norma applied for it.

1941 at Yaapeet. From left unkown with child, Patrick, Roma, Lois, Len, Olive, Sylvie, Kath (married to Jack), George, Jack, Annie and Doreen.

George and Annie retired to Travener Street Rainbow in 1953. This house had a large garden with many fruit trees, grapes and flowers and a chook pen down the back.


1. Charles Lawrence 1905-1941 aged 36
2. Norma (Doris Norma) 1909-1957 aged 48
3. Doreen (Iris Doreen) 1911-1980 aged 69
4. Len (George Leonard) 1913-1987 aged 74
5. Sylvia Roselie 1913-1970 aged 57
6. Olive Laureen 1916-1954 aged 39
7. Roma McKenzie
8. Jack James 1919-1977 aged 56
9. Thora May 1919-1951 aged 32
10. Fay (Shirley Fay)
11. Lois (Valerie Lois)

Go to the Byrne McKenzie children page for more details on the children.

Click to see a letter from Annie to her son Jack


Annie died in 1956 in Horsham hospital (ref 16924) and George died in 1959. They are both buried in Rainbow.

Probate was granted 2/10/59 (ref 548 / 796 P type) The farm at Gaalanungah (Lot 31) was left to Len. (the house has since been demolished). Allotment 21 of Nandemarriman County of Karkarooc (640 acres) was valued at 7160 pounds. It was left to the remaining children (except Len) and Charles' son Patrick. The rest of the property, including the house in Rainbow valued at 1925 pounds, was left to and Len and Jack, after all debts were paid.

The headstone at Rainbow reads:

In Loving Memory of
My Dear Wife and Our Wonderful Mother
Annie Margaret Byrne
Who Died 4th February 1956 Aged 71 Years
And Her Husband
George William Byrne
Who Died 2nd July 1959 Aged 79 Years
"In God's Care".


Blane Connection

in 1920 a John Blane Byrne of Peppers Plains was allotted Lot 50 at Yaapeet. Blane is the name of Denis Byrne's wife's mother. One of Denis' and Lucy's sons was John Blain / Blane born 1890, Goroke.

For more information go to Byrne McKenzie Children