The life of Catherine Aikman (1834 - 1910)

Two men with almost identical names, Alexander Clark (of Clunes, married to Catherine Aikman and Alexander Clarke (of Glengower, married to Elizabeth nee Muely) lived in close proximity to each other in Victoria from the mid to late 1800s. In order to minimise confusion, this page only relates to the story of Alexander Clark of Clunes who married Catherine Aikman.

Who was Catherine Aikman?

Catherine Aikman (1834 - 29 December 1910) was the daughter of Adam Aikman (1801 - 1850) and Margaret McNie (1801 - 1863) from Stirling, Scotland. She should not be confused with the daughter of her brother James Aikman (1840 - 1919), also Catherine Aikman, born in 1876 and lived in Drouin, Victoria.

Catherine was one of four siblings who migrated to Australia. The others were:

Catherine Aikman is believed to have travelled to Australia as a housemaid in 1854, possibly with her sister Margaret. She is not obvious in the list of assisted or unassisted migrants to Australia but this may be because she arrived as a maid.

Either on the way to Australia or soon after arrival, Catherine Aikman met Alexander Clark. Alexander Clark is believed to have been born in Perthshire, Scotland (at a date that is not clear but possibly around 1830 - his birth is not yet clearly identifiable in Scotland's People). They married in Melbourne on 12 September 1854 (Victoria BDM Ref 2698), suggesting that they met before arrival or soon after. Alexander may have worked in Melbourne for a period of time; there are several men named 'Alexander Clark' who advertised in Melbourne in that period, for example the Alexander Clark selling flour at 30 Queen Street, corner of Collins St, recorded in the Argus on 22 June 1855.

Perhaps he then moved to the Ballarat area to work in the gold mines. There is at least one Alexander Clark recorded in Ballarat working in the gold mines; possibly as part of the gold rush, they lived in the Beckworth/Clunes area of Victoria from around 1859 (based on his obituary in 1913 saying he had been living in that area for 'upwards of 54 years'. Perhaps after the gold rush died down, Alexander became a farmer.

Alexander and Catherine Clark lived within 15 kilometres of another Alexander Clarke and family, who leased the property at Glengower, east of Clunes, from January 1887.

The Clunes/Beckworth/Armherst/Glengower area of Victoria

Children of Alexander and Catherine Clark

Alexander and Catherine Clark had 11 or 13 children, according to Victorian BDM records

1863 - Death of Christine Clark

Alexander and Catherine Clark had a daughter, Christina Clark who died in 1863 (Victoria BDM Ref 3811); her birth record has not yet been found. It is assumed that Christina was a baby or small child who may have died at birth.

1864 - Death of Catherine Clark

Alexander and Catherine Clarke's daughter, Catherine Clark, who was born in 1860, died before August 1864 at Beckworth (Victoria BDM Ref 3164). It seems her pregnant mother may have wanted a daughter named after her and so named their next child Catherine Clark.

The Ballarat Star of 17 March 1865 notes that 'The Beckworth correspondent of one of our district contemporaries states that 'Mr Alexander Clark's oat crop has yielded 15 bushels to the acre'. The family appears to have had a low profile, rarely appearing in the local newspapers.

1882 - Margaret Clarke marries David Bryce

Margaret Clarke (1856 - 1934), the daughter of Alexander and Cath Clark, married David Bryce in 1882 (Victoria BDM Ref 847). They had the following children:

1885 and 1887 - Death of John and Adam Clarke

John Clarke (born 1867) died in 1885 at the age of 18. His younger brother, Adam Clarke (born 1870), died in 1887 at the age of 17. No reports of these deaths has yet been found in local newspapers, which seems unusual given their age. They may be buried with their brothers Duncan and Archibald (Archie) at Clunes cemetery: CLARK John, Adam, Archie, Duncan (the first one who died 1876).

1892 - Catherine Clarke marries

Catherine Clarke (1864 - 1956) (presumably named for the sister who died the same year) and Archibald Chisholm married in 1892 (Victoria BDM Ref 3005). They had the following children all born in Victoria:

The family moved to Western Australia at some point. Archibald may have died in 1916; the Western Australia BDM records show only one person with that name who died (in Claremont) from 1896 to 1971 (Ref 105). An Alexander Chisholm married Annie Griffiths in Perth in 1919 (WA BDM Ref 523). An Alexander Chisholm died in Perth in 1936 (WA BDM Ref 1296) but no parents are shown to confirm the identity.

1893 - Death of Archibald McGregor Clark?

Archibald McGregor Clarke (1872 - 1893) may have died at the age of 21. The death of a man with the same name from Beckworth, but said to be 27 was noted in the Traralgon Record of Friday 13 January 1893. The link to this family is the reference to him having come 'to the distrct from Beckwith, near Tourelle'. The cause of death was described in The Horsham Times on 13 January 1893 as follows. It is interesting to note that Archibald's uncle James Aikman was living in the same area (Drouin) at the time but it not mentioned at all.

A magisterial inquiry was held at Warragul on Wednesday (11 January 1893), toucing the death of a young man named Archibald Clarke, who died the previous evening under very peculiar circumstances. The deceased had been suffering from toothache for some time past, and on Saturday last went to Dr. Trumpy, who extracted the decayed tooth. There was an extensive swelling of the tissues around the left side of the lower jaw, produced by inflammation from the root of the tooth, and tending to spread towards the neck. On seeing the patient again on Tuesday, the doctor said the swelling had increased, so that the deceased had great difficulty in breathing, and on an incision being made to the root of the tooth, a few drops of pus were extracted. The deceased, however, gradually sank, and died at 11 o'clock at night. Dr Cameron said he had made a post mortem examination of the body, and found the cause of death to be suppurative pleurisy and pericarditis, the result of blood-poisoning arising from complications following on the extraction of the tooth. The medical gentleman named considered the case a most extraordinary one, says the Argus, although there are two or three other instances on record of death arising from a similar cause. The deceased was about 27 years of age [sic], had a selection of McDonald's Track, and came to the district a few years ago from Beckwith, near Tourelle.

The Warragul Guardian and Buln Buln and Narracan Shire Advocate of 13 January 1893 contained more detail:

SINGULAR DEATH. THE EFFECT OF BLOOD POISONING. A very singular and sudden death took place at Mrs. Patterson's Coffee Palace on Tuesday night. A young man named Archibald Clarke, a selector, residing at Sea View, South Warragul, called upon Dr. Trumpy on Saturday last to have a tooth drawn, from which he was suffering great pain. The doctor extracted the tooth as directed, with the exception of a small portion of one of the roots, and told his patient that this would probably induce an abcess, and apprehending some trouble advised the young man to remain in Warragul until recovered, and offered his accommodation at his own house. The offer, however, was not accepted, and Clarke returned home. On Tuesday evening last he was brought into Warragul, and taken to Mrs. Patterson's house in an unconscious state. Dr. Trumpy again attended the sufferer, but he expired the same evening. Death under such peculiar circumstances is very rare.

The deceased, who has resided near Warragul for about three years, has no relatives in the district, and his father resides at Beckwith, near Talbot. Sergeant Hillard communicated with his parent, who arrived in Warragul on Wednesday evening, as will be imagined, very much distressed.

Dr. Cameron, of Warragul, made a post-mortum examination of the body, and the following is the evidence taken at the magisterial enquiry held by D. Connor, Esq., J.P., at the Court House, on Wednesday:-

George Anderson, storekeeper, deposed that he had that day viewed the body of the deceased, Archibald Clarke, whom he had known for the last two years, and that he last saw him alive on Saturday, the 7th inst., about 2.30. His face was swollen, and he was complaining of toothache. He was usually a strong, healthy young man, and resided on his selection at McDonald's Track. He was a single man, and appeared about 27 years of age.

Donald Cameron, legally qualified medical practitioner, deposed that he had made a post mortem examination of the body of Archibald Clarke at Mrs. Patterson's Coffee Palace, Warragul, and found the cause of death to be supparative pleurisy and periconditis, the result of blood poisoning from an alvolar abscess and suppurative infiltration of the submental tissues.

David Trumpy, legally qualified medical practitioner, deposed that he had examined the deceased, Archibald Clarke, on Saturday, the 7th inst. He showed extensive hard swelling of the tissues around the left side of the lower jaw, produced by inflammation from the root of a tooth, and tending to spread towards the neck. I extracted the tooth, which was the cause of the inflammation, except the point of one root, and told him that the inflammation had effected [sic] the jaw, and would be likely to result in an abscess. On seeing him again on Tuesday, the 10th of January, together with Dr. Cameron, I found that the swelling was increased so that he had difficulty to breathe. On an incession [sic] being made to the root of the tooth, a few drops of pus were evacuated. The breathing got easier, but the patient sank gradually, and died at 11 p.m. the same evening. He concurred with Dr. Cameron as to the cause of death.

James Jacobs, police constable, stated that on receipt of the death of deceased at about 10.35 p.m. on the 10th inst., he went to the room where decessed was lying at Mrs. Patterson's boarding house, Queen street, Warragul, and searched his clothing. In his left-hand trousers' pocket, he found a leather purse containing £4 0s 10d, and had this removed to the police station. A verdict of death from blood poisoning was returned.

1895 onwards - life of Duncan Clarke

Duncan Clarke (1877 - 1915). Duncan never married and pursued various farming pursuits in the Mount Beckworth district for many years, according to an obituary in the Ballarat Courier (see below). Duncan's death notice in The Argus (Melbourne) of 1 November 1915 states that he died suddenly. The death notice refers to his older brother Alexander, his younger brother James, 'Mrs Bryce' and another Mrs (words not clear)). The Ballarat Courier of 1 November 1915 noted that Duncan was 'a well-known resident of Mount Beckworth'. Duncan Clarke's assets were granted to his younger brother James Aikman Clarke, a farmer, according to a probate notice in The Argus on 10 March 1916.

1898 onwards - life of James Aikman Clarke

James Aikman Clarke (1879, Armherst, Victoria (Victoria BDM Ref 20476) - 1965) was a farmer. He inherited his brother Duncan's estate in 1916, as noted above. No other details are known.

1910 - Death of Catherine Clark

Cath or Catherine Clark (nee Aikman) died on 29 December 1910 of 'carcinoma of uterus'. (Victoria BDM Ref 12228). The local newspaper, the Clunes Guardian and Gazette, reported Catherine's death on 4 January 1911, as follows:

The funeral of the late Mrs Clark, whose death was mentioned in our last issue, took place on Saturday last, and was very largely attended. Deceased, who had been a resident of Beckworth for fifty-five years, was highly esteemed and respected by a large circle of friends, and she leaves a husband, three sons, and three daughters to mourn their loss. The remains were interred in the family private grave in the Clunes Cemetery, in the Presbyterian section ... (rest of article names the pall-bearers).

The three sons and three daughters would have been.

1913 - Death of Alexander Clark (senior)

Alexander Clark died on 23 April 1913 of 'arterio sclerosis and chronic myocarditis (some years)', noted in The Australasian of 3 May 1913. The Victorian BDM records show three Alexander Clarks who died in 1913, all with 'unknown' for both parents (Refs 5047, 7963, 10124).

The Clunes Guardian and Gazette reported Alexander's death on 29 April 1913 as follows:

We regret to record the death of one of the early pioneer residents of Mouth Beckworth in the person of Mr Alexander Clark. Deceased was one of the early settlers at Beckworth for upwards of 54 years and was always highly esteemed for his genial and kindly disposition towards all. The remaining family of three sons and two daughters have the sincere sympathy of a large circle of friends in their bereavement. The funeral took place on Thursday last from deceased's late residence and family friends were present to follow his remains, and to condole with the bereaved relatives. The remains were interred in the private family grave with those of his predeceased wife, in the Presbyterian section of the Clunes Cemetery.

Note: For reference, an Archibald Clark died at Camperdown on 21 April 1914. His death notice in the Camberdown Chronicle of 23 April 1914 stated that he was born in Greenock in Scotland (around 1836) and came to Victoria aged 23 on the Marian [sic - could be Marianne](therefore around 1859). He made his way to Camperdown and 'made it his home. He followed agricultural activities mainly'. At the time of his death he was 78 years of age and left a widow and five sons: Archibald Clark of Cobden (died 28 July 1945, see the Camperdown Chronicle of 31 July 1945 for the death notice and other details); John Clark, Peter Clark and Duncan Clark of Camperdown, and Daniel Clark of New Zealand. The Victorian BDM records show two men with that name dying in 1914: Archibald Clark, the son of Archibald Clark and Mary Brown (Ref 4649) - most likely the same person; and Archibald Gordon Clark, the son of William Clark and Rhoda Drusilla Craig (Ref 15071). Could Archibald have been related Alexander Clark? An Archibald Clark arrived as an assisted passenger on board the General Hewett in October 1856.

1915 - Death of Duncan Clark

Duncan Clark (born 1877) died on 29 October 1915 (Victoria BDM Ref 12929). Duncan's death notice in The Argus (Melbourne) of 1 November 1915 states that he died suddenly. The death notice refers to his older brother Alexander, his younger brother James, 'Mrs Bryce' and another 'Mrs (words not clear)'. The notice in The Evening Echo (Ballarat) of 1 November 1915 noted that he was unmarried and 'followed farming pursuits in the Mount Beckworth district for many years.

Duncan's obituary was carried in the Clunes Guardian and Gazette of 2 November 1915:

The many friends of Mr Duncan Clarke, of Mt. Beckwith, will regret to hear of his death, which took place on Friday last. Deceased, who had been in indifferent health for some years, was engaged in some light work on his farm, when he suddenly collapsed from an attack of heart failure. The deceased was well known in the district and highly respected. Much sympathy is felt for Mr James Clarke (with whom the deceased has lived during recent years), and also the other members of the family. The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon, from Mt. Beckwith; the remains being interred in the Clunes cemetery. A large number of friends assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to the deceased. The coffin-bearers were:- Messrs J. McCafferty, W. Coutts, A. Lees, A. Cameron, A. Fraser, D. McDonald. Pall-bearers: Crs A. Coutts and Jas. Branigan, and Messrs J. Turnbull, W. Trewin, E. Lester, S. Kinnersley, T. H. Drife, W. Cleaver, C. Campbell. The Rev. Jas. Legge conducted the service at the graveside. Mr W. Barkell carried out the mortuary arrangements.

1927 - Death of Alexander Clark

Alexander Clark (born 1854) drowned accidentally on Monday 21 February 1927 (Victoria BDM Ref 3491). According to The Argus of 22 February 1927, Alexander Clark, unmarried and aged 74 years, a well-known retired farmer, was found drowned in the Government reservoir at St Arnaud. It is believed that he accidentally fell into the water. At one time he was a very successful farmer at Coonooer Bridge, where he selected land 50 years ago.

1940 - possible marriage of James Aikman Clark

James Aikman Clark (1879 - 1965) possibly married Myrtle Mary McDonald in 1940 (Victoria BDM Ref 9317). If correct, Myrtle may have been the daughter of Alfred Skeats and Margaret Hardy who had previously been married to a McDonald. Note, if this is correct (or a coincidence of names) this means that James would have been 61 at the time.

1965 - Death of James Aikman Clark

James Aikman Clark died in 1965 (Victoria BDM Ref 27946). His possible wife, Myrtle Mary Clark, died in 1974 (Victoria BDM Ref 30681).

Burials in the Clunes Cemetery

The following Clarks and Clarkes are buried in the Clunes Cemetery according to this website. Note that this list is only a list of readable headstones:

Page created 12 July 2014, updated 28 December 2018. Copyright 1985 - 2018, Andrew Warland. email: andrewwarland(at)