DEATH OF A PIONEER

[Elizabeth Fogarty: Mrs John Blay]

Extract from "Coleraine Albion", 4th November 1910, Page 3

The death took place at Portland on Sunday of Mrs John Blay (mother of Mr T Blay of Coleraine), in her 94th year. She was a colonist since 1838. Mrs Blay was born at Government House, Hobart Town, on January 8 1817, her mother being nurse to Mrs Sorell, wife of Colonel Sorell, Governor of Van Diemen's Land.

On leaving school Mrs Blay entered the service as lady's maid of Lady Franklin, wife of Sir John Franklin, and remained there till her marriage at New Norfolk at the age of 17 years to John Blay, son of a prosperous farmer in the New Norfolk district. Hearing reports of the new settlement at Melbourne, they decided to go there, and arrived in 1838. They landed in the surf near where is now Port Melbourne. With her baby in her arms, Mrs Blay was carried ashore by a sailor. Melbourne only comprised a few huts and tents. Mrs Blay often related that the golden wattle was in full bloom everywhere, and that grass was abundant and fully 2 ft high. She knew "Johnny" Fawkner well. Mrs Blay was present at the first land sale in 1840, and saw during the sale bakers' carts drive up laden with loaves of bread, which were tilted out on the street for the public, as also were cases of biscuits. There was also an unlimited supply of intoxicants. During the sale a disturbance arose, and the ! Riot Act was read, but before its conclusion everyone except the officials had disappeared as if by magic.

Mr and Mrs Blay, with an increased family of five, in 1843, left for Geelong, where they stayed for nearly two years, and then went to Portland by bullock team, the journey occupying five weeks, Mrs Blay, with an infant two weeks' old, sitting on top of the dray. They arrived in Portland in April, 1845. Mrs Blay resided there continuously till her death on Sunday morning, a period of 65 years. Mrs Blay had a family of 14, 11 of whom survive her, the youngest being over 50 years of age. There are also a very large number of grand and great-grand children. Mrs Blay for many years had the distinction of being the oldest living Australian native.

Article supplied by Beryl O'Gorman; email - beryl@wordweavers.net.